OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will hold two public meetings next week to discuss its plan to compensate commercial fishers for economic losses resulting from the 1999 Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada.
The agency's plan, which is subject to approval by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, lays out procedures for distributing up to $33.9 million in federal and state funds to Puget Sound seiners, gillnetters and reef netters who agree to sell their commercial licenses back to the state for set amounts.
Bruce Crawford, WDFW licensing manager, said the program is designed to compensate non-tribal commercial fishers affected by the treaty to protect salmon stocks in the U.S. and Canada. Non-tribal fishers in Washington and Oregon will lose an estimated $2.5 million in fish sales per year as a result of that treaty, he said.
"We've worked hard to develop a program that is fair to everyone involved," Crawford said. "We encourage commercial fishers affected by the treaty to let us know their thoughts before we take this plan to the Commission."
The two public meetings will be held at the following locations and times:
- Bellingham: Monday, March 12, 1 p.m. at the Port of Bellingham, Squalicam Boathouse Conference Room.
- Olympia: Wednesday, March 14, 8:30 a.m. at the Natural Resources Building, Room 172, 1111 Washington Street, Olympia, WA.
WDFW will also accept written comments on the plan through April 5 by mail, e-mail or fax. In addition, the public will have an opportunity to comment on the plan at the Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting April 6 at the Ramada Inn at the Spokane International Airport prior to any action on the proposal by the Commission.
Under WDFW's plan, the state would pay a fixed price of $103,287 for a purse seine license, $27,460 for a gillnet license and $57,595 for a reef net license. Fishers would have until 5 p.m. May 11 to apply for the first phase of the program, which would tap $25.2 million in federal and state funds that are currently available.
Phases 2 and 3 of the program would continue through spring 2002 if additional federal and state funds become available.
For all phases of the program, applications for the sale of purse seine licenses would be ranked based on past participation in summer and fall Puget Sound salmon fisheries. The purchase of Puget Sound gillnet and reef net licenses would be based on a random drawing of applicants for each type of license.
Given full funding and participation in all phases of the program, the number of purse seine licenses in Puget Sound would be reduced from 260 to 75. The number of gillnet licenses would drop from 675 to 200 and the number of reef net licenses would fall from 41 to 11.
Written comments on WDFW's "Puget Sound Salmon Economic Assistance Program" should be sent to Bruce Crawford, Licensing Division, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia WA 98501-1091. Comments can also be faxed to (360) 902-2945 or sent via e-mail to email@example.com.