It may not take much of the edge off Puget Sound coho anglers’ anger right now, but WDFW has rolled back how much it wants to charge them for salmon as well as steelhead catch record cards by 41 percent
Instead of an out-the-door price of $17 for each as originally proposed, the agency has reduced that to $10 apiece.
The cost of sturgeon and Puget Sound halibut catch cards were also reduced from $11.50 to $10.
It’s all a strong sign that WDFW heard the opposition from Evergreen State fishermen over the summer and adjusted its proposed license fee increases accordingly.
Whether lawmakers in turn will listen to WDFW about its financial needs is another question, but Director Jim Unsworth will send the package to the Governor’s Office for consideration.
Of note, it still includes a roughly 20 percent hike on combo fishing licenses, a 10 percent increase on hunting licenses and Puget Sound crabbing licenses would double from $7.50 to $15.
Those and other price bumps would raise $18.4 million in new revenues, mostly on the fishing side.
WDFW would also like a “biennial inflation mechanism” to temper “significant periodic increases” such as this, plus $21 million from the General Fund.
It will be up to legislators in the upcoming session early next year to approve, modify or ditch the package, which came out of Unsworth’s Washington’s Wild Future.
That initiative was announced back in August 2015, a moment when all seemed good with Washington’s fishing world.
The Columbia was in the midst of epic Chinook runs, pinks were biting like mad off Everett and coho were believed to be inbound behind them.
Some of that proved illusory, and the bid came to fruition as the state’s salmon scene — a primary driver of the Washington’s sport fisheries — soured because of The Blob, contentious negotiations at North of Falcon, subsequent severe restrictions on Puget Sound salmon fishing and the Skokomish River closure.
Angry Westside anglers have been holding protests around the region, and in the words of one longtime observer, it’s otherwise a “horrible” time for WDFW to ask for more money.
Fishing industry and conservation organizations have given the fee proposals a lukewarm reception, expressing serious concern at the size of the increases but also recognizing that it costs money to operate the agency and provide the myriad fishing and hunting opportunities.
The Lewiston Morning Tribune reported that WDFW “needs a revenue increase of about $12 million annually just to continue the program it now offers, (Region 1 manager Steve) Pozzanghera said.”
In a draft note for its 2017 budget request, the agency explained its rationale:
“In the assessment of recreational fishing and hunting fees included in the proposal, the department considered the relative cost of recreational opportunities in adjacent states; placed a value on reducing barriers and keeping costs low for youth, senior, and disabled customers; and sought modest increases in fees for low-cost fisheries while proposing higher fees for those fisheries that are more costly to manage (i.e those protected under the federal Endangered Species Act).”
One final note: while catch cards currently cost nothing, not all that long ago we did pay to record steelhead. In 1997, that card was $18.