Washington Position Statements

Washington Position Statements (Updated February 10th, 2015)

Selective Fishing
Scientific review of salmon hatchery and recovery efforts in the Pacific Northwest points to selective fishing as a key reform needed to restore depleted wild salmon and steelhead populations and to fully realize our significant investments in hatcheries, habitat restoration, and hydropower operations. To restore and rebuild depleted and ESA listed stocks, both commercial and recreational fishers must become more selective in targeting abundant stocks for harvest while minimizing impacts to less viable stocks. Such targeting requires the widespread use of harvest gear and practices capable of live capture, sorting and unharmed release of fish. Selective fishing methods will minimize mortality rates and bycatch of non-targeted stocks and facilitate efficient harvest of targeted hatchery stocks to prevent their interference with wild salmon recovery. CCA Washington supports the implementation of selective fishing and other science-based harvest reforms as a critical component of salmon and steelhead recovery efforts.

Harvest Management
Harvests of Pacific Northwest fish stocks often occur at the expense of the recovery of depleted stocks and to the detriment of non-targeted species. Managers tend to plan harvests based on optimistic estimates of abundance that often do not materialize. CCA Washington believes that harvest management decisions should err in favor of conservation and recovery, and impacts to nontargeted species should be minimized with appropriate buffers. Furthermore, since the fisheries resources of Washington are the property of present and future generations, harvestable surpluses should be utilized in a manner that optimizes their benefits to all of our citizens.

Catch Monitoring and Evaluation
The history of large-scale commercial fishing reveals a clear pattern of negative impacts to important non-targeted stocks (bycatch). Commercial fisheries extracting massive numbers of forage fish directly impact the health of depleted and ESA-listed stocks dependent on such forage fish. The availability of forage fish to provide a source of food for salmon, other fish, marine birds and marine mammals should take precedence over harvest. CCA Washington supports systematic and vigilant programs of professional catch monitoring and evaluation to identify and correct problems related to bycatch and overharvest of forage fish at an early stage.

Unrecorded Fishery Impacts
Rational fisheries management requires accurate assessment of mortality to nontarget stocks and species caused by or related to the fishery. Currently, managers rely too heavily on catch reports by those directly engaged in fisheries to regulate harvest. This practice invites bias, and may also result in systematic underestimates of mortality from such sources as pinnipeds taking fish from nets or lines, net drop-out, unrecorded sales, and derelict gear. In some cases, these factors are ignored completely. CCA Washington supports efforts to improve the accuracy of reporting and mortality assessments, to examine all likely causes of mortality related to a fishery, and to ensure accurate data is collected from disinterested or independently monitored sources.

Hatchery Funding and Reform
Hundreds of hatcheries throughout Washington play a vital role in salmon and steelhead conservation and recovery while also creating sustainable fishing opportunities. Hatchery review efforts illustrate the need for better management of state, federal and tribal hatchery and harvest programs to fulfill these important roles. Unfortunately, many hatcheries lack the funding needed to upgrade these facilities and agencies have not implemented key broodstock management reforms. CCA Washington supports science-based efforts to reform hatchery operations and urges the federal and state agencies to provide the funding and leadership needed to promptly implement these reforms.

Nutrient Enhancement of Freshwater Ecosystems
After spawning, adult salmon die and their remains transfer essential marine nutrients and energy-rich carbon to freshwater ecosystems. In the absence of abundant wild spawning fish, distribution of hatchery salmon carcasses or analogs serves to replace missing nutrients and thereby increases juvenile salmon growth rates and abundance. Wild salmon adult returns have decreased significantly in many freshwater systems raising the need to reverse this nutrient loss and increase distribution of hatchery salmon carcasses or analogs to such habitat. Independent scientific reviews confirm the positive ecological benefits of distributing salmon carcasses or analogs in natural spawning areas and recommend steps to minimize possible negative impacts to salmon stocks. CCA Washington supports these findings and recommendations.

Derelict Fishing Gear
Nearly 4,000 derelict fishing nets and 14,000 derelict recreational and commercial crab pots litter the floor of Puget Sound. Over their extended lives, these rot-resistant nets and pots ensnare untold thousands of fish, seabirds, marine mammals and as many as half a million crabs per year. More gear is lost and abandoned every year, adding to the accumulation. This build up of derelict fishing gear is not limited to Puget Sound but extends to the Columbia River and other river basins throughout Washington. No one agency is responsible for derelict gear removal, and accountability for lost gear is hampered by lack of any identification or reporting requirements. The Northwest Straits Commission (NWSC) has led the way to removing these silent killers and restoring the ecology of Puget Sound. CCA Washington supports efforts to remove this offending gear, to limit ongoing gear losses, to assign a single agency to oversee enforcement and resolutions, and to create and sustain adequate funding sources to complete the removal efforts.

Marine Fish Enhancement
Wasteful fisheries and deteriorating habitat have severely impacted many populations of near shore marine fishes. This is particularly evident in Puget Sound and the Georgia basin where these factors have combined to drastically reduce or eliminate entire families of formerly abundant ground fish, including rockfishes, codfishes, and greenlings. CCA Washington supports efforts to foster recovery and restoration of these stocks using the best available science in harvest management, hatchery supplementation and habitat improvement.

Predation
Many predator populations have reached artificial and unnatural levels due to human actions and conflicting laws. CCA Washington supports science-based efforts to reduce the impacts of predation on adult and juvenile fish populations including salmon, steelhead and sturgeon.