OLYMPIA - A new surcharge on some commercial and recreational fishing licenses will help protect depleted rockfish populations - and possibly avert the need for additional fishing restrictions on other species.
The surcharge was approved under House Bill 1476, passed by the 2007 Legislature and signed into law today by Gov. Chris Gregoire. The measure authorizes the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to levy the surcharge to support additional research on rockfish populations off the Washington coast and in Puget Sound.
The fee is expected to generate approximately $200,000 per year from a 50-cent surcharge on three types of recreational fishing licenses and a $35 surcharge on certain commercial and charter-boat licenses.
Surcharges will affect fishing licenses sold after May 31. Recreational licenses affected by the surcharge include combination, saltwater and temporary licenses.
Those additional revenues will be used to expand abundance surveys, including the use of remote-controlled vehicles to monitor rockfish in rocky areas of the sea floor that are difficult to access with other survey methods, said Phil Anderson, WDFW special assistant for intergovernmental resource management.
"This expanded data-collection effort is critical not only to rockfish recovery but also to the future of our state's saltwater fisheries," Anderson said. "Without adequate data, we can't assess the success of our recovery efforts or whether additional actions are warranted."
Since 1997, when the National Marine Fisheries Service declared seven species of Pacific coast rockfish "overfished," fishery managers have adopted a growing array of fishing restrictions to protect depleted stocks, Anderson said. Those regulations have affected fisheries for halibut, lingcod and other marine fish, because rockfish are sometimes intercepted incidentally while fishing for those species, he said.
"Now there's discussion of how salmon fisheries - both on the coast and in Puget Sound - affect rockfish recovery," Anderson said. "We need to base our discussions on sound scientific information, and this legislation will allow us to assemble much better data than we have available to us now."
WDFW will be able to start expanding research and monitoring of Washington's rockfish populations beginning in 2008, Anderson said.
Other measures supported by WDFW, approved by the 2007 Legislature and signed into law by the Governor include:
- House Bill 1082, which removes the previous requirement that people harvesting shellfish, razor clams or seaweed display their fishing license on their clothing. Shellfish harvesters must still, however, make the license available for inspection if requested to do so.
- House Bill 1079, which clarifies criteria for people with disabilities to qualify for reduced fees when purchasing fishing and hunting licenses.
- House Bill 1249, which allows hunters a one-time deferral from state hunter-education requirements under certain conditions.
- House Bill 1756, which allows WDFW to establish one additional cougar hunt with the aid of dogs if a county can demonstrate the need to do so.
- Senate Bill 5923, which authorizes funding for WDFW's aquatic invasive species enforcement control program for recreational and commercial watercraft.