Draft fish policies available for review

Staff reportDecember 15, 2013 

The state has extended the public comment period for draft policies for managing Grays Harbor salmon and lower Columbia River white sturgeon populations. The deadline is now Jan. 9.

The state Fish and Wildlife Commission, which sets policy for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, extended the comment period during discussions at its Dec. 6-7 meeting in Olympia.

Fishery managers have been working with a citizen committee and the public since October to develop the draft options for a new policy to address conservation and catch allocation for Grays Harbor salmon fisheries.

The goal of the policy is to ensure spawning goals are met for wild salmon returning to the basin and to give anglers and commercial fishers a clearer picture of what fishing opportunities they can expect each year, according to an agency news release.

Key principles of the Grays Harbor policy include:

• Promoting the conservation and restoration of salmon and steelhead by working with partners, such as regional fishery enhancement groups, to protect and restore habitat productivity, implement hatchery reform, and manage fisheries consistent with conservation objectives.

• Developing opportunities that are fairly distributed across fishing areas and reflect the diverse interests of fishermen.

• Structuring recreational and department-managed commercial fisheries to minimize conflicts between the two gear types.

• Seeking to enhance the overall economic well-being and stability of Grays Harbor Basin fisheries.

• Ensuring salmon management is well-documented, transparent, well-communicated and accountable.

The commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the draft policy during its January meeting. The commission is scheduled to make a final decision on the policy at its February meeting.

Also at the February meeting, the commission is scheduled to make a final decision on the draft policy for managing lower Columbia River white sturgeon. A public hearing will be held on the draft policy in January.

The proposed changes do not affect current regulations, including a rule beginning Jan. 1 that requires anglers to release all white sturgeon in the lower Columbia River below Bonneville Dam, the Washington coast, Puget Sound and their tributaries. However, catch-and-release fishing will be allowed in those areas.

IN OTHER ACTION

The commission approved the purchase of 2,639 acres in Asotin County, 640 acres in Kittitas County and just over 2 acres in Mason County.

The small Mason County property is just south of Belfair and provides habitat for fish, shellfish and waterfowl. The property will become part of the department’s South Puget Sound Wildlife Area.

The Kittitas County land is located near Cle Elum and provides critical habitat for fish and wildlife, including northern spotted owls, bull trout and other federally protected species, said the news release. This property will become part of WDFW’s L.T. Murray Wildlife Area.

The Asotin County property — southwest of Anatone — contains habitat for fish and wildlife species, including steelhead, bull trout, deer, elk and bighorn sheep. Once the sale is completed, the property will be part of the Blue Mountain Wildlife Area.

TO GET INVOLVED

Grays Harbor plan

Learn more: The draft policy options are available online at wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/grays_harbor_salmon. The website includes information provided during recent public meetings, along with the dates and times of two additional public meetings scheduled in January.

To comment: Written comments on the policy may be submitted via email to graysharbor@dfw.wa.gov or by mail to Ron Warren, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

Columbia sturgeon plan

Learn more: The draft sturgeon policy is available at wdfw.wa.gov/commission/policies/c3001_draft120913.pdf.

To comment: Written comments on the sturgeon policy can be submitted to commission@dfw.wa.gov or mailed to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

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