OLYMPIA – New ballast-water management rules aimed at preventing the spread of invasive species in state waters were adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission during a meeting here June 5-6.
The commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved updates to state regulations governing the discharge of ballast water from ships coming into Washington ports, an activity that potentially can introduce harmful, non-native species into state waters.
Adopted changes were developed to help fulfill legislative directives passed in 2007 and provide clarity to the diverse state, national and international cargo shipping and cruise ship industries that call on Washington ports. The rules cover all aspects of WDFW’s ballast-water management program, including arrival and discharge reporting, vessel inspections, open-sea exchange requirements and sediment management. They also provide the penalty structure for non-compliance, with fines up to $27,500 per day of violation.
The new rules, available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/ballast/ballast.htm, were developed in consultation with the department’s Ballast Water Work Group, which includes shipping organizations, environmental groups, state and federal agencies, tribal governments, and the public.
The commission also adopted a rule change clarifying identification requirements for those purchasing hunting licenses. Under the new rule, which goes into effect July 10, past Washington state hunting licenses may no longer be used as identification to obtain a new license from a dealer.
People eligible to purchase hunting licenses must either be listed as current license holders with a valid hunter education certificate number in the department’s licensing data system, show they were born before Jan. 1, 1972, or present a hunter-education certificate showing they completed a WDFW-approved hunter education course. Washington also accepts hunter education certificates issued by other states and provinces as proof of successful completion of an approved hunter education course.
In other business, the commission heard public testimony on a draft hatchery and fishery reform policy designed to advance WDFW’s ongoing effort to ensure hatchery operations help conserve and recover naturally spawning salmon and steelhead populations while also supporting sustainable fisheries. The policy is scheduled for commission adoption during its July 10-11 meeting.
The public can review the policy and offer comments through the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hab/sepa/sepa.htm. Comments also can be emailed to SEPAdesk2@dfw.wa.gov or mailed to Teresa Eturaspe, 600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091. The deadline for offering comments through the SEPA process is June 17. Public input received through this process and through the commission comment period will be considered in developing the final policy for adoption.
The commission also heard briefings and took public comment on proposed changes to WDFW’s pilot cougar hunting program, including a proposal to move the season opener from Dec. 1 to Jan. 5 and remove requirements for dog ownership. The commission is scheduled to take action on proposed changes at its July 10-11 meeting.
In other action, the commission approved two land acquisitions in Kittitas and Franklin counties and a transfer in ownership of 3,816 acres in Cowlitz County from the Washington Department of Transportation to WDFW.
The commission also voted to select the Washington State Department of Personnel to conduct a candidate search for a permanent director of WDFW and finalized the director’s job description. A new director is expected to be hired in October.
In briefings to the commission, WDFW staff:
- Reported on the status of the Puget Sound rockfish recovery plan.
- Recommended increasing the frequency of commercial hagfish reporting.
- Provided updates on the pheasant release program.
- Recommended transferring responsibility for issuing waterfowl hunting reports (similar to catch record cards for fishing) to license dealers.
For more information about commission meetings, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings.html.