Sunday, April 21, 2013

WDFW's Regional Columbia River Conservation Endorsement Success: A Model for Expanding Opportunities and Improving Monitoring in Puget Sound?

Since 2010, Washington anglers wishing to fish for salmon or steelhead in the Columbia River have paid an additional $8.75 per year for a Columbia River salmon and steelhead endorsement. Since that time, the program which was originally initiated as a means of making up some of a $30 million state budget cut, has provided support for more than a dozen vital monitoring and fisheries management initiatives that are supporting continued and expanded opportunities for salmon and steelhead angling in the Columbia system. 

The fee, which was authorized by senate bill 5421, raised more than $2.3 million in just over a year, and continues to provide funding for vital population monitoring, creel surveys, enforcement and research. With the states fiscal situation continuing to threaten funding availability for WDFW, the conservation surcharge provides a model for funding key management functions. And, unlike license fees which go into the state's general fund, anglers interested in fishing for salmon and steelhead have assurance that funds from the surcharge are being funneled directly into providing support for conservation and management. 

In Puget Sound, state funding for monitoring and research remains fairly limited and a lack of quality population data, preseason forecasting, and in-season run updating remains as a barrier to providing fishing opportunity, particularly for wild winter steelhead. 

Anglers are increasingly calling on WDFW to develop a scientifically credible framework for re-opening catch and release sport fisheries for wild winter steelhead in the Skagit and other Puget Sound rivers. As the state works towards developing and implementing a recovery plan, having dedicated funds to support monitoring, improved run forecasting, creel survey and restoration would be a major benefit, and anglers in Puget Sound would undoubtedly be happy to contribute $10 a year if it improved the prospect of the state managing fisheries for wild winter steelhead on a regular basis.

More information on the Columbia River surcharge program can be found on WDFW's website:

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