Washington state fishery managers have scheduled a variety of opportunities for the public to participate in setting salmon fishing seasons for 2019, starting with the annual statewide salmon forecast meeting Wednesday, Feb. 27.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will present initial forecasts compiled by state and tribal biologists of the 2019 salmon returns at the meeting scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Lacey Community Center, 6729 Pacific Ave. S.E., Olympia.
That meeting is one of more than a dozen sessions scheduled at various locations around the state as part of this year’s salmon season-setting process. A list of the scheduled meetings can be found online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.
State fishery managers rely on input from anglers, commercial fishers, and others interested in salmon as they work to develop this year’s fisheries, said Ron Warren, head of WDFW’s fish program.
“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.”
Additionally at the upcoming meetings, fishery managers will discuss steps to protect southern resident orcas from disruptions from fishing vessel traffic and ways to consider the whales’ dietary needs in the fishing season-setting process.
The declining availability of salmon — southern resident orcas’ primary prey — and disruptions from boating traffic have been linked to a downturn in the region’s 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 meetings, other ways the public can participate include:
• Online comments: Beginning in mid-March, fishery proposals will be posted on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/, where the public can submit comments electronically.
• 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 at www.wdfw.wa.gov
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. 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.