In 2022, the Washington State Legislature approved a commercial license reduction program that saw the number of commercial Columbia River fishing licenses reduced from 240 to 67. The Legislature directed that any impacts to wild fish and Endangered Species Act-listed fish resulting from the retired licenses in the license reduction program should be reserved for conservation by allowing those fish to pass upstream.
We are committed to meeting the Legislature’s direction to reserve impacts to fish as described in the 2022 budget proviso. We intend to implement this during this fall’s Zones 4 and 5 commercial gillnet fishery on the Columbia River. If we determine that we can achieve the reserved impacts and promulgate an additional fishery, the Department is prepared to support an opening of the commercial fishery. However, if we determine that there are insufficient impacts remaining to both reserve impacts and consider additional fishing period(s), Washington will not consider additional commercial gillnetting period(s) on the Washington side of the river later in September.
Though this decision would bring us out of alignment with Oregon on this issue, this does not represent a “new normal” in fishery management on the Columbia. We have enjoyed a productive, collaborative relationship with the varied Columbia River interests for years, and I fully expect that to continue in the future. We will continue working to develop creative solutions to potential conflicts, and I hope we will continue to see concurrent regulations on the river in our future fisheries.
Kelly Susewind, Director
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Individuals who need to receive this information in an alternative format, language, or who need reasonable accommodations to participate in WDFW-sponsored public meetings or other activities may contact the Civil Rights Coordinator by phone at 360-902-2349, TTY (711), or email (Title6@dfw.wa.gov). For more information, see https://wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility/requests-accommodation.