Local and statewide meetings to set fishing regulations coming up

The future of local salmon fishing and the impact of declining orca populations on local waters will be up for discussion at an upcoming meeting.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife tells KXRO that state fishery managers have scheduled opportunities for the public to participate in setting salmon fishing seasons for 2019.

WDFW will present their initial forecasts compiled by state and tribal biologists of the 2019 salmon returns at the annual statewide salmon forecast meeting Wednesday, Feb. 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Lacey Community Center, 6729 Pacific Ave. S.E., Olympia.

Prior to this meeting, on February 26 a meeting at Montesano City Hall from 6-8 pm will specifically look at the Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor salmon forecasts and fishing opportunities.

Additional local meetings are scheduled for March 25 in Westport and March 26 in Montesano.

These meetings are part of more than a dozen sessions scheduled at various locations around the state as part of this year’s salmon season-setting process.

A full list of the scheduled meetings can be found online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Ron Warren, head of WDFW’s fish program says that fishery managers rely on input from anglers, commercial fishers, and others interested in salmon as they work to develop this year’s fisheries.

“It’s important for us to hear what the public has to say about salmon fisheries,” Warren said. “We’re trying to make that easier this year by making video of some of the major public meetings available online. And we’ll again take public input electronically on our fishery proposals.”

In addition to the salmon seasons, on Feb. 27 fishery managers will discuss steps to protect southern resident orcas from disruptions from fishing vessel traffic at the upcoming meeting, and consider the whales’ dietary needs in the fishing season-setting process.

According to WDFW, declining salmon availability and boating traffic have been linked to a downturn in the orca population over the past 30 years.

“We’re working with the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop tools to assess the effects of fisheries on available prey for orcas,” Warren said. “These upcoming meetings provide opportunities for the public to understand the steps we’re taking to protect orcas this year.”

In addition to attending the meetings, other ways the public can participate include:

  • Plenary session: State and tribal co-managers plan to hold an informal discussion during the public meeting, Wednesday, April 3, in Lynnwood. Details will be available on the webpage listed above.
  • Meetings on video: The department intends to provide video of several public meetings. More information will be available online soon.

The annual process of setting salmon fishing seasons is called “North of Falcon” and is held in conjunction with public meetings conducted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). The council is responsible for establishing fishing seasons in ocean water three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.

The PFMC is expected to adopt final ocean fishing seasons and harvest levels at its April 11-15 meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif.

The 2019 salmon fisheries package for Washington’s inside waters is also expected to be completed by the state and tribal co-managers during the PFMC’s April meeting.