From Harvey Morrison:
Wanted to put this on your radars. This is the rulemaking process following the passage of HB1579, which was the “orca habitat bill.” This bill primarily dealt with shoreline armoring, but there was a provision to liberalize bag and size limits for these invasive species that predate on juvenile salmon. This is also a way that the state and encourage private anglers to contribute to orca recovery.
Here’s the link to the rule making: https://wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/WSR_19-18-074.pdf
The language is good: “Eliminates harvest restrictions for bass, walleye, and channel catfish in all rivers, streams and beaver ponds, and in lakes, ponds and reservoirs where these three species may inhabit the same water as salmon smolts.”
The Fish and Wildlife Commission will be discussing this rule change at their meeting on October 18th, so please have folks send in comments before then.
One of the reasons salmon runs have collapsed/are struggling to recover is because dams have created warm water reservoirs that are the perfect habitat for invasive fish species like walleye, bass, and catfish. These fish were often purposefully stocked in lakes and have since escaped into the same rivers our salmon spawn in. These invasive fish are voracious predators and are a major source of mortality for young salmon after they hatch.
During public meetings, WDFW got significant push-back from bass fishers who do not want these changes. Removing catch and size limits allow people to “fish-out” the species from certain areas. The bass fishing community wants to maintain these limits to ensure the long-term viability of bass fishing.
On the website, you can comment on a specific region if you want, but if you want to support the rule change throughout the state, people should email both the department and the fish and wildlife commission: Rules.Coordinator@dfw.wa.gov, firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s some proposed petition language folks can use:
Dear Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission,
I strongly support your proposed rule making to eliminate harvest restrictions for bass, walleye, and channel catfish in all rivers, lakes, and streams that also support salmon smolts. These three species are invasive and non-native to Washington, and they are voracious salmon predators. Not only are many of the state’s salmon runs threatened or endangered, but salmon are also the main food of starving and endangered southern resident orcas. Because of this the Governor’s Orca Task Force recommended removing harvest restrictions for these invasive salmon-predators, and the legislature authorized the Department to make this rule change by passing 2SHB 1579.
By removing harvest restrictions on these species, anglers can help the department greatly reduce the number of invasive salmon-predators in Washington’s waters. This is expected to increase juvenile salmon survival, which will provide more fish for starving orcas and help rebuild struggling salmon runs. Salmon are also one of the most economically and culturally important species in the Pacific Northwest, and the state should prioritize the recovery of salmon over the management of invasive species that undermine salmon recovery efforts.
Please adopt the rule changes and remove harvest restrictions for bass, walleye, and channel catfish in all of Washington’s waters that support salmon.