OLYMPIA - A $10 penalty for failing to comply with Puget Sound crab catch-reporting requirements was approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission during a meeting here Sept. 5-6.
The citizens commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved the department's proposal to begin enforcing the fine starting next year with catch reports due after the 2009 crab season.
Sport crabbers in Puget Sound are required to record their Dungeness crab catch on separate catch record cards - one for the summer season and one for the fall/winter season. People have the option of reporting that harvest information on the Internet or by mailing in their catch cards.
Under the new rules, crabbers who fail to report their catch will be required to pay $10 before a license vendor will issue a new catch record card for the following Puget Sound crab season. According to WDFW, less than a third of the 200,000 people licensed to fish for Dungeness crab in Puget Sound reported their catch as required.
Commissioners agreed that timely catch reports are an essential tool needed to manage the popular fishery.
In other action, the commission approved a Game Management Plan that establishes goals and performance measures for WDFW's game management program from 2009 through 2015.
Key issues addressed by the plan - approved after an extensive public review process that drew thousands of comments - include hunter access to private lands, predator management and improved communication with the public. The final plan will be posted on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/00433/index.htm by Sept. 9.
In a separate action, the commission approved closing all special-permit hunts for deer and elk on the Yakima Training Center for the 2008-hunting season due to U.S. Army training schedules at the center. In addition, the commission approved four land transactions, including the acquisition of 815 acres in Okanogan and two properties in Yakima County to protect habitat for fish and wildlife. It also approved the transfer to WDFW of 604 acres owned by the Cascade Land Conservancy in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties.
The commission also selected six citizens to serve as advisors to the Columbia River Fish Working Group, created by the Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife commissions to recommend management options for spring and summer chinook fisheries on the lower river.
Citizen advisors from both states will work with commissioners and fishery managers on the Working Group to develop management recommendations for consideration by the two commissions in December. Washington's advisors include two members representing sport fisheries, two representing commercial fisheries and two representing local communities.
In considering its own operations, commissioners voted to move two of its upcoming meetings - previously scheduled in Ellensburg and Leavenworth - to Olympia to reduce travel costs for staff. Concerned about tight revenue projections in the coming years, the commission also directed WDFW staff to explore options for scheduling some public meetings via videoconferencing to reduce travel costs and expand public participation.
Updated information on future commission meetings will be posted on the commission's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/com/meetings.htm .
The commission was also briefed by WDFW staff on:
- Ongoing efforts to reduce the department's operational costs.
- Proposed amendments to commercial fish and shellfish reporting requirements.
- Legislative initiatives under discussion regarding minimum-age requirements for hunting.
For information about future commission meetings, contact the commission office at (360) 902-2267 or see the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/com/meetings.htm .