After discussions continued on Wednesday, state and tribal fishery managers did not reach an agreement for this year’s Puget Sound salmon-fishing seasons.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty tribes separately will continue to seek federal permits necessary for holding marine and freshwater fisheries in Puget Sound, where some fish stocks are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
“We had one last round of negotiations in hopes of ensuring salmon seasons in Puget Sound this year,” said Jim Unsworth, director of WDFW. “Regrettably, we could not agree on fisheries that were acceptable to both parties.”
The department proposed salmon fisheries that allowed anglers to harvest chinook while protecting coho, which are expected to return in low numbers this year. The state’s proposed fisheries met conservation goals that WDFW and the tribes had previously agreed upon, Unsworth said.
State fishery managers are uncertain whether the department will receive the necessary permit in time to hold salmon fisheries in Puget Sound through much of the season.
WDFW and the tribes typically secure a federal permit together for holding Puget Sound salmon fisheries. State and tribal fishery managers did not reach agreement during the annual season-setting process, which concluded in mid-April. Further talks last week were also unsuccessful.
Unsworth said he is hopeful the state and tribes can work together in the future to develop plans to bolster salmon stocks as well as improve the season-setting process.
“We want to work with the tribes to address long-term resource management concerns, such as restoring habitat and increasing hatchery fish production,” Unsworth said. “The breakdown in this year’s negotiations demonstrates the need for a change to the process of setting salmon-fishing seasons.”
Absent an agreement, all non-tribal commercial and recreational Puget Sound salmon fisheries, including Marine Area 13 and year-round fishing piers around Puget Sound, will close May 1 to salmon fishing until further notice.
Any updates on Puget Sound salmon-fishing seasons will be posted to WDFW’s webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/, where summaries of this year’s salmon fisheries for the Columbia River, Washington’s ocean waters and north coastal rivers can be found.