CCA Washington honors state senator for fishing conservation efforts

State Sen. Kirk Pearson has been named the 2014 Legislator of the Year by the Coastal Conservation Association of Washington. Awarded Tuesday in Lacey, the honor recognizes Pearson’s commitment to the state’s fisheries and support for recreational fishing.

The Monroe Republican represents the 39th Senate district.

The association, with 16 chapters statewide, works to preserve marine fisheries, including salmon and steelhead. The group has worked with others on creating a recreational priority for Puget Sound spot shrimp and making recreational salmon fishing a priority in the mainstem of the Columbia River.

“Senator Pearson has been a champion of the immense economic, social, and conservation benefits of recreational fishing here in Washington, efforts to restore the popular sockeye fishery to Lake Washington, and defending the important role that well-managed hatcheries play in sustaining our salmon and steelhead fisheries,” Nello Picinich, executive director of CCA Washington, said in a prepared statement.

As chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee, Pearson worked with CCA and other angler organizations to help secure funds in the 2013-15 supplemental operating budget to study in-lake predation on juvenile sockeye salmon. That is seen by some people as a possible cause behind the decline in Lake Washington sockeye population in recent years. Proponents of the study hope it will lead to management actions that would significantly improve the frequency and magnitude of Lake Washington sockeye fisheries. Lake Washington hasn’t had a recreational sockeye fishery since 2006.

Pearson estimated the economic value of the 2004 sockeye salmon fishery to the region at $9-$12 million

The association also cited Pearson for leading a committee work session to discuss the recent settlement between the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Wild Fish Conservancy on the state’s early-winter hatchery-steelhead program. To avoid a costly lawsuit, the department agreed to severely curtail the number of hatchery-raised young steelhead released into Puget Sound rivers. The session was the first — and so far only — chance for anglers, tribes and others to publicly comment on the deal.

“Protecting our waters so that future generations can enjoy them is vital for our state’s economy and quality of life,” Pearson said in a statement. “Our state’s fisheries create jobs, generate revenue for our communities and state coffers and, perhaps most importantly, help make Washington the great family recreational treasure it is.”