Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson to resign at end of year

After nearly six years at the helm, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Phil Anderson has informed the state Fish and Wildlife Commission he will resign from his position, effective Dec. 31.

“Deciding when to move on is a difficult decision,” Anderson said. “But after 20 great years with the department, the time is right for me to step aside. I will leave knowing that the talented people I have had the privilege to work with here at WDFW are fully capable of taking on the challenges that lie ahead.”

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for WDFW, will begin the recruitment process for a new director in the next few weeks.

“Phil has done a tremendous job leading the department through some difficult and challenging issues over the past several years,” said Miranda Wecker, chair of the commission. “His strong conservation ethic, dedication to sound fiscal management and expertise in intergovernmental relations have greatly benefitted the department and the state’s fish and wildlife resources it protects and manages.”

As director, Anderson guided the department through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. During the unprecedented budget shortfall, state General Fund support for WDFW declined by nearly $50 million – 45 percent – threatening department operations and fishing and hunting opportunities throughout the state.

To address the shortfall, Anderson and his staff worked to restructure the agency while continuing to provide key services and maintain a high conservation standard for Washington’s fish and wildlife. As part of that effort, WDFW worked closely with stakeholders to develop new revenue streams and reduce the department’s reliance on the state General Fund.

Also under Anderson’s leadership, the department developed a plan to guide state conservation and management of gray wolves as they recolonize in Washington – a controversial issue that has evoked strong reactions from people on both sides of the Cascade Range.

The department implemented the plan in 2011, after working closely with a number of citizen advisors, including those representing conservationists, hunters and livestock producers. The plan establishes clear recovery objectives for gray wolves, along with procedures for addressing predation on livestock and impacts on ungulates such as deer, elk and caribou.

Throughout his career at WDFW, Anderson has played a leading role in working with Indian tribes in a number of forums, including the annual salmon co-management process known as North of Falcon. During this process, the state and tribes set seasons for marine and freshwater salmon fisheries throughout Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s coastal areas.

Anderson also has served as WDFW’s representative to the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) and serves as a commissioner on the Pacific Salmon Commission.

Over the last decade, Anderson and his team successfully maintained fishing opportunities by establishing new sustainable fisheries that allow the harvest of abundant wild stocks and hatchery-produced fish while meeting conservation objectives for wild populations listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Key to this effort has been the use of selective-fishing methods, including mark-selective fisheries that allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery salmon but require that they release wild salmon. Establishing these fisheries, where appropriate, has resulted in additional harvest opportunities.

Anderson also has led WDFW’s effort to change state hatchery operations to support the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead populations.

“I am proud of the fact that we have successfully maintained fish production while reforming hatchery practices to ensure that they are compatible with efforts to rebuild wild fish populations,” Anderson said. “The job is definitely not done, but we have made tremendous strides in the right direction that bode well for the future of Washington’s fish stocks and fisheries.”

Anderson, who lives in Westport, said he plans to spend more time with his family and will look for other opportunities to contribute to resource conservation and management.

Anderson, 64, joined WDFW in 1994 after serving seven years on the PFMC as a private citizen, including as the council’s chair. Anderson was appointed WDFW director in 2009 after serving nearly nine months as the agency’s interim director. He previously served as WDFW’s deputy director for resource policy and as assistant director of the department’s Intergovernmental Resource Management Program.

Federal council adopts alternatives for ocean salmon sport fisheries

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Anglers fishing along the Washington coast could see a higher catch quota for chinook salmon, and all three sport harvest alternatives for coho are up from last year.

Three alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries, approved Thursday for public review by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), were developed in response to projections of a higher abundance of Columbia River hatchery chinook and a significant increase in Columbia River coho. The PFMC establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.

The three alternatives establish a range of season structures and harvest quotas for ocean fisheries, while taking into account the needs of inside fisheries and ensuring that conservation objectives for wild fish are met, said Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“The strong returns forecast for Columbia River hatchery chinook and coho will allow us to provide recreational anglers some great fishing opportunities off the Washington coast this year, while continuing to meet conservation objectives for wild salmon populations,” said Anderson, who represents WDFW on the management council.

Two of the three alternatives include recreational mark-selective fisheries for hatchery chinook in June. If approved, this would be the fifth-straight year the ocean fishery would begin with a mark-selective fishery targeting hatchery chinook. Mark-selective fisheries allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery salmon, marked with a missing adipose fin, but require that they release wild salmon.

Two of the alternatives would also allow retention of hatchery chinook in the LaPush and Neah Bay areas during halibut openings in May.

More than 1.6 million Columbia River fall chinook salmon are expected back this year. If that run comes in at forecast it would be the largest since record-keeping began in 1938. A portion of the run – about 225,000 salmon – is expected to be lower river hatchery chinook, which traditionally have been the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery. In-river fisheries will also benefit from the strong return.

Additionally, the ocean abundance of Columbia River coho is forecast to be about 964,000 fish, three times as many fish as last year’s actual abundance. A significant portion of that run will contribute to the ocean fishery as well.

The PFMC is scheduled to make its final decision on this year’s ocean regulations and harvest quotas for recreational and commercial fisheries at its April meeting in Vancouver, Wash. The recreational fishing alternatives include the following quotas for fisheries off the Washington coast:

  • Alternative 1 – 60,000 chinook and 193,200 coho.
  • Alternative 2 – 58,000 chinook and 176,400 coho.
  • Alternative 3 – 47,500 chinook and 159,600 coho.

The PFMC last year adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 48,000 chinook and 74,760 coho salmon.

Under each option for this year, the ocean recreational fishery would vary:

Alternative 1:

Selective fishery for hatchery chinook:

Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores): May 31-June 20: Open daily. Daily limit of two salmon, except anglers must release coho and wild chinook.
Marine areas 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay): May 16-17 and May 23-24 and May 31-June 20: Open daily. Daily limit of two salmon, except anglers must release coho and wild chinook.

Traditional ocean salmon fishery for chinook and hatchery coho:

Marine Area 1: June 21-Sept. 30: Open daily. Daily limit of two salmon, but only one chinook may be retained.
Marine Area 2: June 21-Sept. 30: Open daily. Daily limit of two salmon, but only one chinook may be retained.
Marine Area 3: June 21-Sept. 21 and Sept. 27-Oct. 12: Open daily. Daily limit of two salmon.  
Marine Area 4: June 21-Sept. 21: Open daily. Daily limit of two salmon.

Alternative 2:

Selective fishery for hatchery chinook:

Marine areas 1 and 2: June 7-June 20: Open daily. Daily limit of two salmon, except anglers must release coho and wild chinook.
Marine areas 3 and 4: May 23-24 and June 7-20: Open daily. Daily limit of two salmon, except anglers must release coho and wild chinook.

Traditional ocean salmon fishery for chinook and hatchery coho:

Marine Area 1: June 21-Sept. 30: Open daily. Daily limit of two salmon, but only one chinook may be retained. 
Marine Area 2: June 21-Sept. 21: Open daily. Daily limit of two salmon, but only one chinook may be retained.
Marine Area 3: June 21-Sept. 21 and Sept. 27-Oct. 12: Open daily. Daily limit of two salmon.
Marine Area 4: June 21-Sept. 21: Open daily. Daily limit of two salmon.

Alternative 3:

Traditional ocean salmon fishery for chinook and hatchery coho:

Marine Area 1: June 14-Sept. 30: Open daily. Daily limit of two salmon, but only one chinook may be retained.
Marine Area 2: June 15-Sept. 30: Open daily. Daily limit of two salmon, but only one chinook may be retained.
Marine Area 3: June 14-Sept. 21 and Sept. 27-Oct. 12: Open daily. Daily limit of two salmon. 
Marine Area 4: June 14-Sept. 21: Open daily. Daily limit of two salmon.

A public hearing on the three alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries is scheduled for March 24 in Westport.

Chinook and coho quotas approved by the PFMC will be part of a comprehensive 2014 salmon fishing package, which includes marine and freshwater fisheries throughout Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s coastal areas. State and tribal co-managers are currently developing those fisheries.

The co-managers will complete the final 2014 salmon fisheries package in conjunction with the PFMC process during its April meeting.

Meanwhile, several public meetings are scheduled in March to discuss regional fisheries issues. A schedule of public meetings, as well as salmon run-size forecasts and more information about the salmon-season setting process, can be found on WDFW’s North of Falcon website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Public meeting on salmon forecast kicks off WDFW season-setting process

OLYMPIA – Anglers, commercial fishers and others interested in Washington state salmon fisheries can get a preview of this year’s salmon returns and potential fishing seasons during a public meeting here March 3.

Kicking off the annual salmon season-setting process, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will present initial forecasts – compiled by state and tribal biologists – of 2014 salmon returns.

The meeting is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington Street S.E., in Olympia.

Those attending the meeting will have an opportunity to talk to fishery managers about the pre-season forecasts and participate in work sessions focusing on possible salmon fisheries and conservation issues.

WDFW has also scheduled additional public meetings focusing on regional salmon issues through early April. This series of meetings – involving representatives from federal, state and tribal governments and recreational and commercial fishing industries – is known as the North of Falcon process.

A meeting schedule and more information about the salmon season-setting process for Puget Sound, the Columbia River and the Washington coast is available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/

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

Final adoption of the 2014 salmon fisheries is scheduled for April 10 at the PFMC meeting in Vancouver, Wash.

Federal Panel Adopts Options for Ocean Salmon Sport Fisheries

Anderson said two of the options include recreational mark-selective fisheries for hatchery chinook that would begin in early June. If implemented, mark-selective fisheries for hatchery chinook would open ahead of the traditional recreational fishing season for the second straight year. 

Mark-selective fisheries allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery salmon, which are marked with a missing adipose fin, but require that they release wild salmon.

About 760,000 fall chinook are expected to return to the Columbia River this year, nearly 108,000 more chinook than last year’s forecast. A significant portion of that run – about 250,000 fish – is expected to be lower river hatchery chinook, which traditionally have been the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.

For coho salmon, the ocean quota could be similar to or slightly lower than last year’s harvest guideline, said Anderson. This year’s forecast of 362,500 Columbia River coho, which account for a significant portion of the ocean catch, is similar to the 2010 projection.

The PFMC is expected to approve final harvest guidelines for this year’s recreational ocean fishery in mid-April. The three options announced today establish parameters for state and tribal fishery managers in designing this year’s fishing seasons.  The recreational fishing options are:

  • Option 1 – 52,000 chinook and 79,800 coho;
  • Option 2 – 42,000 chinook and 67,200 coho; and
  • Option 3 – 32,000 chinook and 54,600 coho.

Using these options as a framework, fishery managers will work with stakeholders to develop a final fishing package that provides opportunities on healthy salmon runs while meeting conservation goals for weak salmon populations, said Anderson.

“Our goal is to provide a full season of fishing for chinook and coho,” Anderson said. “But to accomplish that we will likely need to use management tools such as restricting the number of days open each week and adjusting daily bag limits.”

The PFMC last year adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 61,000 chinook and 67,200 coho salmon.

Under each option for this year, the ocean recreational fishery would vary:

  • Option 1: The recreational salmon fishing season would begin June 4 with a mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in marine areas 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay). In Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco), the season would begin June 11. The selective fishery would run seven days a week, with a daily limit of two salmon, through June 25 or until 12,000 hatchery chinook are retained.
     
    The recreational salmon season would continue June 26 in all coastal areas for chinook and hatchery coho. Anglers would have a daily limit of two salmon. In marine areas 2, 3 and 4, anglers would also be allowed to retain two additional pink salmon.
     
  • Option 2: The recreational salmon fishing season would begin June 11 with a mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in all ocean areas. The fishery would run seven days a week, with a daily limit of two salmon, through June 25 in Marine Area 1 and through June 30 in marine areas 2, 3 and 4 or until 12,000 hatchery chinook are retained.
     
    The recreational salmon season would open for chinook and hatchery coho June 26 in Marine Area 1; July 1 in marine areas 3 and 4; and July 3 in Marine Area 2. Anglers fishing those marine areas would be allowed to retain one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit. Anglers also would be allowed one additional pink salmon each day in marine areas 2, 3 and 4.
     
  • Option 3: Recreational salmon fisheries would begin with mark-selective fisheries for hatchery chinook and hatchery coho. Those fisheries would get under way June 24 in marine areas 3 and 4; June 26 in Marine Area 2; and July 3 in Marine Area 1. Wild chinook retention would be allowed beginning in late July.

More details on these ocean options, including proposed fishing days per week, are available on PFMC’s website at www.pcouncil.org/

Chinook and coho quotas approved by the PFMC will be part of a comprehensive 2011 salmon fishing package, which includes marine and freshwater fisheries throughout Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s coastal areas. State and tribal co-managers are currently developing those fisheries.

The co-managers will complete the final 2011 salmon fisheries package in conjunction with the PFMC process during its April meeting.

Meanwhile, public meetings are scheduled in March to discuss regional fisheries issues. A public hearing on the three options for ocean salmon fisheries is scheduled for March 28 in Westport.

Fishery managers will consider input from the regional discussions during the “North of Falcon” process, which involves planning for fishing seasons in Washington’s waters. Two public North of Falcon meetings are scheduled for March 15 in Olympia and April 5 in Lynnwood. Both meetings will begin at 9 a.m.

More information about the salmon-season setting process, as well as a schedule of public meetings and salmon run-size forecasts, can be found on WDFW’s North of Falcon website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/ .

Strong Runs Projected at WDFW Meeting

Phil Anderson, WDFW director, said department staff will work closely with tribal co-managers and constituents to develop fisheries that meet conservation objectives and provide fishing opportunities on abundant runs of wild and hatchery fish.

“We will continue to design fishing seasons that not only meet conservation goals for salmon, but also minimize impacts to other species,” said Anderson. “It is important that we take into account the entire ecosystem when managing our fisheries.”

Anderson noted that state budget reductions are also a factor in designing fisheries that can be managed effectively with a reduced staff. State general-fund support for WDFW was reduced by 30 percent in the current budget and is expected to drop even further over the next two years.

As in past years, salmon-fishing prospects in 2011 vary by area:

  • Columbia River: About 760,000 fall chinook are expected to return to the Columbia River this season. That’s about 112,000 more chinook than last year’s return and would constitute the fifth largest run since 1948, said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for WDFW.
      More than half of the chinook forecast – about 398,000 salmon – is expected to be “upriver brights” headed to the Hanford Reach area and the Snake River. That would be the second largest run of upriver brights since 1964, when fishery managers began keeping records, said LeFleur.
      “This should be a good year for upriver brights, which provide some of the best in-river fishing opportunities for anglers,” LeFleur said.
      While the chinook run is expected to be up, the forecast of 362,500 Columbia River coho is similar to last year’s projection.
  • Washington’s ocean waters: Anglers can expect an ocean fishery for chinook and coho salmon this summer similar to that in 2010, said Doug Milward, ocean salmon fishery manager for WDFW.

“Last year, fishing was good for chinook and fair for coho,” said Milward. “The number of salmon available for this summer’s ocean fishery is expected to be similar to last year, so anglers should see another good year of fishing.”

Nearly 250,000 hatchery chinook are expected to return this year to the lower Columbia River. Those salmon, known as “tules,” traditionally have been the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery. The 362,500 coho salmon bound for the Columbia River also account for a significant portion of the ocean catch.

  • Puget Sound: Coho and pink salmon returns to Puget Sound are expected to be strong this year. About 980,000 coho are forecast to return to Puget Sound streams, about 367,000 more fish than last year’s forecast.

In addition, nearly 6 million pink salmon are expected to return to Puget Sound this year. That forecast is 3 million salmon below 2009’s record return but still an abundant run, said Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager for WDFW. Most pink salmon return to Washington’s waters only in odd-numbered years.
  
“This is shaping up to be a really good year in Puget Sound for both coho and pink salmon,” said Thiesfeld, who noted that an additional 17 million pink salmon are forecast to return to Canada’s Fraser River this year. “A portion of those Fraser River fish will make their way through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the San Juan Islands boosting opportunities for Washington anglers.” 

Summer/fall chinook salmon returns to Puget Sound are expected to total about 243,000 fish, slightly higher than last year’s projection of 226,000. Most chinook fisheries in Puget Sound likely will be similar to last year, said Thiesfeld. However, fishing opportunities in the Green (Duwamish) River and Elliott Bay could be limited by a low forecast of wild chinook, he said.

Thiesfeld said a Lake Washington sockeye fishery is unlikely this year. The sockeye forecast is about 34,600, well below the minimum return of 350,000 sockeye needed to consider opening a recreational fishery in the lake.

State, tribal and federal fishery managers will meet March 5-10 in Vancouver, Wash., with the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) to develop options for this year’s commercial and recreational ocean chinook and coho salmon fisheries. The PFMC establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.

Additional public meetings have been scheduled in March to discuss regional fishery issues. Input from these regional discussions will be considered as the season-setting process moves into the “North of Falcon” and PFMC meetings, which will determine the final 2011 salmon seasons.

The PFMC is expected to adopt final ocean fishing seasons and harvest levels at its April 9-14 meeting in San Mateo, Calif. The 2011 salmon fisheries package for Washington’s inside waters will be completed by the state and tribal co-managers during the PFMC’s April meeting.

2009 Salmon Fisheries Approved

More than one million Columbia River coho are expected to return this summer. As a result of the anticipated run, which would represent the largest return since 2001, the PFMC today adopted a recreational ocean quota this year of 176,400 coho. That's much higher than the 2008 ocean coho quota of 20,350 salmon.

The PFMC, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean water three to 200 miles off the Pacific Coast, also set a recreational chinook harvest quota of 20,500 fish. Although similar to last year, the chinook quota is at a near-record low level, said Anderson.

Recreational ocean salmon fisheries will begin June 27 off LaPush and Neah Bay and June 28 off Ilwaco and Westport.

All areas will have a two-salmon daily limit, only one of which may be a chinook. Anglers fishing off Neah Bay and LaPush will be allowed to retain two additional pink salmon, while those fishing off Westport will be allowed to keep one additional pink salmon. As in past years, only hatchery coho salmon with a clipped adipose fin can be retained in ocean fisheries.

In Puget Sound, where summer/fall chinook salmon returns are expected to total about 222,000 fish – a slight decrease from last year's forecast – several new mark-selective fisheries for chinook salmon were added in the summer and winter months, said Pat Pattillo, salmon policy coordinator for WDFW. Selective fisheries allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery salmon, which are marked with a missing adipose fin, but require that they release wild salmon.

"Selective fisheries are just one of the management tools we can use in our effort to recover and protect wild salmon populations," said Pattillo. "By adding these fisheries, we were able to meet our conservation goals and allow anglers some great opportunities to fish for hatchery chinook in Puget Sound."

Anglers also will have an opportunity to take advantage of an abundant return of pink salmon this year. About 5.1 million pink salmon are expected to come back to Puget Sound streams, nearly 2 million more fish than forecast in 2007. The smallest of the Pacific salmon species, pink salmon return to Washington's waters only in odd-numbered years.

"Bonus" bag limits for pink salmon will be established in marine areas 5 through 11, said Pattillo.

In the Columbia River, recreational chinook salmon fisheries in the mainstem from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam will be open from Aug. 1 through Sept. 13. Beginning Sept. 14, chinook retention only will be allowed upstream of the Lewis River.

The Buoy 10 fishery will open for chinook and coho Aug. 1. Chinook retention will be allowed through August. Beginning Sept. 1, the daily limit will be three coho, but anglers must release chinook.

Specific regulations for marine areas in Washington and a portion of the Columbia River will be available next week on WDFW's North of Falcon website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/northfalcon/ ).