Hello Mr. Atlas,
Thank you for your email to the Director’s office dated Monday July 20th with regard to the adoption of a number of Wild Salmonid Management Zones across the state. The director’s office forwarded your correspondence to me for a direct response back to you.
One of your closing points sums up the development or designation of wild salmonid management zones well, and that is that the department has acknowledged the benefit of developing such locations across the state and identified it as a specific strategy to be implemented as a means of protecting wild fish from the influence of hatcheries.
We concur that hatchery fish can pose risks to wild fish and within that context, are working across the state to identify populations that would be good candidates to be managed as wild salmonid management zones. The characteristics that would make geographic locations good candidates for wild salmonid management zone designation include sufficiently abundant and productive natural population that can be self-sustaining in the future. And, though fishing is not inconsistent with wild salmonid management zone designation, the opportunity for fishing can be directly influenced by the presence or absence of hatchery fish because of fishing impact limits associated with wild fish through federal ESA take coverage. As I’m sure you would agree, most wild populations today cannot support directed fisheries, so the department anticipates implementing wild salmonid management zones on a single species basis to afford protection and meet conservation objectives on a species by species basis.
The Department’s Fish and Wildlife Commission is currently reviewing a Hatchery and Fishery Reform Policy that contains among other things implementation of Wild Salmonid Management Zones. The current DRAFT of the policy can be found at the following link http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission.
The department received many proposal to designate certain areas as Wild Salmonid Management Zones. A minimum requirement for these areas, as mentioned, are no hatchery releases specifically associated with the species designated. Fishing regulations can then be adopted to reflect a management strategy geared towards wild fish protection. Catch and release of wild fish and the use of selective gear would be consistent regulations with wild salmonid management zones. I want to acknowledge up front that the sport regulation process only deals with changing sportfishing rules and that no formal designation of wild salmonid management zones occurs in this process alone. However, sportfishing rules can be changed to reflect greater emphasis towards the protection of wild fish and there were proposals submitted by constituents that we concur should be considered. These will be out for public review and comment to the Fish and Wildlife Commission in September.
The department will continue to work towards formal identification of wild salmonid management zones for steelhead through the development of regional steelhead management plans as called out for in the Statewide Steelhead Management Plan. As we implement hatchery reform across the state, populations for other salmonid species may also be identified.
Thank you for taking the time to communicate with the department on your interests in the development of wild salmonid management zones. If you have questions or additional thoughts, please contact me at 360-902-2662.
Salmon and Steelhead Division Manager -Fish Program
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife