OLYMPIA --Bern Shanks, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, today expressed disappointment that a federal judge has delayed the stateís coho fin marking program for up to 10 days while she reviewed technical information.
"We need to keep this project moving so I am disappointed we are delayed for up to 10 days," Shanks said. "But I am hopeful science will prevail when we return to court within the next 10 days."
"It is essential that Washington continue marking its hatchery coho to protect wild fish runs and still provide recreational and commercial fisheries in upcoming years." Shanks said.
During the next 10 days, the judge will review extensive materials on electronic detection equipment provided by the state and tribes. The state has offered Indian tribes and Canada this equipment that will detect coded wire tags placed in the noses of some hatchery fish as a data collection tool. Fish carrying the tags currently are identified by clipped adipose fins.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife is clipping the adipose fins from all its hatchery coho so fishers can distinguish them from wild fish.
The department has argued fish checkers can still identify fish with coded wire tags with metal detectors. The tribes and Canada argued the fin clipping program undermines the coded wire tag data collection program.
Shanks said both houses of the state Legislature unanimously voted to support the marking program. Oregon already has marked all its hatchery coho this year.
He warned the federal government may shut down all salmon fishing in Washington to protect wild salmon runs if the fin clipping project is not allowed to proceed.