The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is currently working to implement the buy-back proviso approved by the Washington Legislature during the 2022 legislative session. Visit this page for updates as the process develops.
The Washington State Legislature provided $14.4 million in 2022 to reduce the number of non-treaty Columbia River/Willapa Bay and Columbia River/Grays Harbor salmon gillnet fishing licenses through a voluntary buy-back program. The structure for this program is reflective of the parameters outlined by the Legislature.
Under this program, individuals owning a Columbia River/Willapa Bay or Columbia River/Grays Harbor salmon gillnet license (as outlined by RCW 77.65.160) may volunteer to sell their license back to the state for monetary compensation as outlined below. Licenses purchased back by the state will be permanently retired. The license reduction program will not change any regulations or privileges associated with remaining licenses.
For more information about this project please contact Raquel Crosier at Raquel.Crosier@dfw.wa.gov.
Below is the final budget proviso language included in the 2022 Supplemental Operating Budget passed by the Washington State Legislature and signed by Governor Inslee:
(65) $14,400,000 of the general fund—state appropriation for fiscal year 2023 is provided solely for the department to reduce the number of nontribal commercial gillnet fishing licenses on the Columbia River through a voluntary buy-back program.
(a) Until November 30, 2022, the department may pay up to $25,000 each for licenses that have been inactive since 2019 and up to $120,000 each for licenses that have been active since 2019. After November 30, 2022, the department may pay up to $20,000 each for licenses that have been inactive since 2019 and up to $96,000 each for licenses that have been active since 2019. It is the intent of the legislature that this will be the last appropriation made to buy back licenses for the Columbia River gillnet fishery.
(b) For all licenses purchased, the department shall calculate the reduced impacts to wild and endangered stocks based on the most recent five-year average of harvest and reserve those impacts for conservation through increased wild salmonid escapement or mark selective fisheries capable of harvesting surplus hatchery-reared salmon where needed to meet federal genetic protection requirements for wild salmon populations in a manner consistent with state-tribal fishery management agreements.
(c) The department must make recommendations to the legislature for any necessary changes in statute, regulations, or program funding levels to transition lower Columbia River mainstem gillnet fisheries to alternative, selective fishing gears, including pound nets or other gears capable of benefitting wild salmon conservation through mark-selective harvest practices. The recommendation must be submitted to the appropriate committees of the legislature by December 1, 2022.