600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

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Archived documents do not reflect current WDFW regulations or policy and may contain factual inaccuracies.
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June 28, 2017
Contact: Joe Stohr, 360-902-2650;
Ron Warren, 360-902-2799

State government shutdown would force WDFW
to close fisheries across the state

Lawmakers passed the state budget and avoided a government shutdown.  This means there will be no interruption of fishing seasons or in services provided by WDFW.

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will be required to close or delay the opening of fishing seasons throughout the state if lawmakers are unable to enact a state budget before July 1.

"We are optimistic that lawmakers will resolve their differences and avoid a shutdown, but it's possible they will not succeed," WDFW Director Jim Unsworth said today. "We are providing this information to inform the public of the potential effects of a shutdown, so they can revise their plans if necessary during the busiest recreation season of the year."

Most WDFW facilities and programs would close or cease operations for the duration of a shutdown. The WDFW license sales network would be shut down, so hunting and fishing licenses and the Discover Pass would not be available from the department or its statewide network of retail vendors.

The department operates 83 fish hatcheries across the state, and Unsworth said the department would do everything possible to operate all of them during a possible shutdown.

"We are required by federal law to keep open the 42 hatcheries where we produce fish protected under the Endangered Species Act," he said. "At this time there is no clear authority to keep the remaining 41 hatcheries open, but we are exploring options to avoid closing any of them," he said.

The department would temporarily lay off about 1,800 employees if the shutdown occurred, while about 70 staff members would remain on-duty.

Unsworth said WDFW would be legally required to take the following steps in the event of a shutdown:

  • Close non-tribal fishing seasons on lakes, rivers, and saltwater marine areas throughout the state. The only exception would be the commercial and recreational Dungeness crab fisheries currently in progress off the Washington coast.  All other fisheries would be closed, including those on the Columbia River, Puget Sound, and on rivers, streams, and lakes across the state. The coastal crab fishery can stay open because the necessary funding does not require legislative appropriation.
  • Delay the start of several fishing seasons that are scheduled to open in early July, including recreational crabbing in parts of Puget Sound and the popular sockeye salmon fishery at Baker Lake in Whatcom County. WDFW staff would not be available to process rule changes required to open other fisheries, including the potential sockeye fishery at Lake Wenatchee in Chelan County.
  • Close all WDFW boat launches and water access sites. The department operates about 700 access sites. No maintenance activities would take place.
  • Stop the sale of WDFW fishing, hunting and other licenses, including the Discover Pass, through the system that supports online transactions and retail vendor sales. The license system would shut down at midnight June 30.
  • Stop processing Hydraulic Project Approval permits, required for construction projects in or near state waters, and shut down the department's online application system.
  • Stop receiving or processing public disclosure requests under the state's Public Records Act.
  • Close all state, regional and local offices.  WDFW is headquartered in Olympia and has regional offices in Ephrata, Mill Creek, Montesano, Olympia, Spokane, Vancouver, and Yakima, and local offices in many other communities.
  • Rely on other agencies to respond to crime reports or dangerous wildlife complaints, including poaching and other incidents. A handful of staff members would monitor the WDFW Police radio dispatch system and refer emergency responses to other agencies.
  • Leave the department's 33 wildlife areas unstaffed. These areas would remain open to the public but would not be maintained. Restrooms and other facilities would be closed.