Funding cuts and rising costs threaten fisheries

Salmon, steelhead and other fish species play an integral role in the economy, ecology, and culture of Washington state. While the value of these resources cannot be fully expressed in dollars and cents, recreational and commercial fisheries generate billions of dollars for the state's economy. WDFW is charged with maintaining these valuable species as well as the recreational and commercial fishing opportunities they provide. But meeting those responsibilities has become increasingly difficult in recent years, due to shrinking state and federal funding, steadily rising costs, and increasingly complex management requirements.

To address the increasing costs of maintaining salmon and steelhead fisheries, WDFW is proposing fee increases for some recreational and commercial fishing licenses.

New strategy will guide fish passage improvements

In recent decades, WDFW has worked with local governments and non-profit groups to remove culverts that present a barrier to steelhead and salmon in streams throughout the state. It is now clear that many of these projects would have been more beneficial to migratory fish if they had been coordinated on a watershed-by-watershed basis. In many cases, barriers further downstream have continued to block fish passage due to a lack of system-wide coordination.

In 2014, the Washington State Legislature created the Fish Passage Barrier Removal Board to correct this situation and create a statewide strategy for fish barrier removal to maximize the state's investment. This fact sheet provides an update on that effort and the key objectives for the new strategy.

Strengthening charter stamp laws

Under state law, charter boat operators and fishing guides can purchase multiple fishing license stamps – each good for one day of fishing – from WDFW. The boat operators and fishing guides can then re-sell these stamps to anglers who arrive at the dock without a valid fishing license, avoiding delays in the day's fishing trip. However, some charter boat operators and guides have avoided purchasing the proper number of stamps by intentionally reissuing previously used licenses to different customers. Unfortunately, these cases could not be prosecuted because of deficiencies in state law.

WDFW is proposing legislation that would make it a crime for licensed game fish guides, food fish guides, or charter boat operators to fail to perform duties required under RCW 77.32.430 or violate any department rule regarding the sale, possession, issuing, or reporting of temporary fishing licenses, temporary short-term charter stamps, or catch record cards.

Chehalis Basin habitat restoration and flood control

The Chehalis River Basin is the second largest watershed in Washington and includes some of the most extensive and environmentally diverse floodplains in the state. However, over the past 100 years, the watershed's health has significantly declined and the basin has experienced increasingly extensive floods. To address these challenges, the Chehalis Basin Work Group – created in 2012 – recommended extensive habitat restoration throughout the watershed, a flood-control dam on the upper Chehalis River, and other measures to reduce flooding and restore aquatic species in the basin.

WDFW participated in the work group process, reviewing technical analyses, conducting field studies, developing models, and assisting in the development of an aquatic species enhancement plan. This fact sheet describes the department's perspective on the work group's recommendations. 


WDFW's Legislative Mandate

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife operates as the state’s principal agency for species protection and conservation, under a mandate defined in Title 77 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). That legislative mandate directs the department to preserve, protect, perpetuate and manage fish and wildlife and to provide fishing and hunting opportunities. Department activities also are subject to provisions of Title 220 and Title 232 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC).