This past weekends Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission meetings yielded some positive results and well, some things that aren't so good. There was also some comic relief from the commercial fishing industry as one bottom dragger claimed that bottom "destroyers" are actually heroes because they "clean" the bottom of Puget Sound. There was also some whining from the commercial crab industry as they tried to make the case that an extra 5% or so of allocation to Puget Sound recreational crabbers is somehow wrong. I guess they haven't looked at the economic analysis and social benefits of recreational crabbing in Puget Sound.
One of the big topics that came up was the proposed MPA in Marine Area 4b. Bear Holmes representing CCA spoke and opposed any closure making the point that new rules and limits that just took affect this year haven't been given a chance and that any talk of a closure should be scrapped. Mike Jamboritz of Jambo's Sportfishing spoke as well, mentioning the economic hardship that a closure could have on an already economically depressed area. Members from PSA, including Ron Garner, also testified and spoke about small boat access as well as touching on many other issues. In favor of the closure were the typical groups like Wild Fish Conservancy and People for Puget Sound. Jamie Glasgow from WFC and Doug Meyers from PFPS both spoke and said that a Marine area 4b closure was not good enough and that what we need is a network of MPA's. As I have said before, these well funded groups are not friends to recreational anglers and want to close off access for all future generations. WE already have rockfish
protection in all of Puget Sound with a complete closure essentially creating an enormous rockfish recovery area. There is also a study that shows that lingcod predation could stop rockfish recovery in closed areas. On-going funding for enforcement and study, the fact that any MPA would not apply to tribal harvest, the fact that we have many juvenile rockfish, cod and other species already showing signs of recovery, and the fact that we already have many reserves and protected areas that aren't being studied for effectiveness make the idea of any additional MPA's hard to swallow. Whatever happened to seasons, size, and limits? They are proven management tools that work.
Mandatory net marking and reporting was also a hot topic of discussion. I have been advocating for awhile now the mandatory marking and reporting of gillnets. Bear Holmes also commented on the mandatory marking of nets and was met with resistance from commissioner Orr who chastised both him and Ron Garner for bringing up the issue. It seems quite a simple idea and one that would do more for rockfish recovery than any. From the reports that I have received, Director Anderson stepped up big time and defended the idea. Director Anderson stated that marking and reporting should in fact be be in the rules and regulations but funding for removal should be funded by the legislature. The fix would be quite easy with a simple change to RCW 77.12.870. In section two of this RCW if states that a person who loses or abandons commercial gear is encouraged to report the location and type of gear lost. The problem with this is that since 2003, only two nets have been reported. According to a recent study done, an estimated 25 to 45 nets are lost each year. When you consider that one single net recovered by Northwest Straits Initiative had 162 seabirds, 14 salmon, 42 dogfish, 1,400 dungeness crab, and 1 harbor seal, it is no wonder we are at a crises stage with recovery of so many of our fisheries. Even with all of the great work that Northwest Straits has done removing nets, I fear that if we continue to repeat the same mistakes of the past then we will have the same results of the past. Let's change the RCW to make it mandatory to mark and report lost nets and if someone is not in compliance then lets prosecute.
The most disappointing vote by the commission was the vote on the lead ban. I can't believe that our department supported and our commission voted in favor of the lead ban on 12 lakes in Washington. This study was done using junk science that even the EPA rejected on a national level. I fear that this vote was purely political and our commission was wrong for abondoning the recreational angler in this state, all to appease environmental groups. The commission should be ashamed of themselves. The study used by the environmental groups showed that only 9 loons died in 13 years of lead. When asked for toxocology reports to prove, they couldn't provide them. An alternative study, that wasn't agenda driven, on loons was published in 2010. This study showed that shoreline development, predation, disease, inadequate forage, trauma, global warming, and even kayaking were responsible for stress on the loon population. All that being said, the overall loon population continues to increase.
It is also disappointing that recreational anglers didn't get more involved in fighting this proposal. Whether you fish in one of these lakes or not, this decision can and will be used as leverage by the environmentals and whackos that don't want you to fish anymore. If they can get lead banned, then why can't they use the same arguments to get hooks, fishing line or anything else banned. These are scary times for recreational anglers. If your one of the guys that is involved and active at some level in fighting these radical agendas then thank you. If not, then you better wake up before it is too late. In the year 2010 and beyond we can't just be weekend anglers, we have to be involved in the political process. Groups like PFPS, PEW, and WFC are involved, well heeled, and active. Do you want to put your future as a recreational angler in their hands?
Below is a press release from ASA concerning the lead ban.
For Immediate Release Contact:ASA, Mary Jane Williamson, 703-519-9691 x 227BASS, Mark ByrneTBF, Robert Cartlidge, 580-765-9031Cascade Musky Association, Mark WellsNSIA, Liz Hamilton, 503-631-8859
Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commission Imposes Lead Fishing Tackle Bans
Recreational fishing community’s efforts dismissed by adoption of unwarranted fishing tackle regulations
Washington, D.C. – December 8, 2010 – Twelve of Washington state’s most popular fishing spots that generate much-needed income for fisheries conservation and habitat restoration through fishing license fees and tackle sales, are now subject to a new regulation that prohibits the use of lead fishing weights and jigs that measure 1.5” or less. On December 4, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted that regulation, along with a ban on fishing flies containing lead at Long Lake in Ferry County. The commission rejected an alternate proposal submitted by five national and regional recreational fishing organizations that incorporated a comprehensive community-based, scientific study of loon and waterfowl mortality and an education program for fishing and boating enthusiasts to minimize disturbances and threats to loons and other water birds.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, whose income, in part, is derived from fishing license fees, argued in favor of the measure that the Commission ultimately adopted, even though their arguments were inconsistent with the Department’s own findings of healthy loon populations and increased nesting sites in the state. Freshwater fishing in Washington contributes over $1 billion annually to the state’s economy and supports over 9,500 jobs.
“Though these regulations have been imposed with the aim of conserving loon populations, the commission overlooked the much more eminent threats to the birds in Washington, such as shoreline development and disease,” said American Sportfishing Association Vice President Gordon Robertson. “Over the past 13 years, advocates of these new regulations have only been able to identify nine loon mortalities from lead fishing tackle ingestion.”
“We are disappointed that the commission did not accept the recreational fishing community’s proposal to assist with the further understanding of loons in Washington,” said Mark Byrne with the Washington Chapter of B.A.S.S. “Our proposal provided a measured and studied approach to a decision that should not have been made until adequate data was available.”
“The decision to ban lead sinkers and jigs in these lakes will have no positive effect on the loon population in Washington,” said Gary Morris of the The Bass Federation (TBF). “A win-win decision would have been a cooperative program between anglers, boaters and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to bolster the understanding of interactions between people who enjoy time on the lake, especially anglers, and loons. We believe our proposal would have added to the body of evidence that is necessary for the commission to make an informed and balanced decision, a decision which we had hoped would be only made once the issue of lead fishing tackle and loons was better understood.”
“The issue of lead-containing fishing tackle and loons tends to be based on emotion, and not on sound scientific data,” said Robertson. “In reality, only a small number of loons die each year from ingesting a lead sinker or jig. Other mortality factors – shoreline development, pollutants such as sewage and run-off – account for the vast majority of loon and other waterfowl deaths.”
The recreational fishing community notes that the commission’s new regulation disregards Washington Governor Gregoire’s Executive Order 10-06, which states that all government agencies, including commissions, are to “suspend rule making that is not immediately necessary.” The Executive Order was issued to help small businesses and communities during Washington’s economic recovery. This newly adopted regulation will negatively impact the state’s economy, job force and fishery conservation funds.
Robertson said, “The arguments presented in Washington were emotionally driven and not based on scientific fact. Unfortunately, the commissioners rejected our proposal, which would have significantly advanced the knowledge base of loons and other waterfowl by bringing anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts into loon conservation projects. It’s difficult to understand why such a proposal was not considered, especially when it came from anglers, the very constituents that pay for fishery conservation in Washington.”
“Despite the lack of data to back up the assertion, the recreational fishing community was offered up as the source of loon mortality,” said Mark Wells with the Cascade Musky Association. “Nothing is further from the truth.”
Wells further said, “The recreational fishing community offered a logical and common-sense, community-based plan that included a high degree of recreational community participation and ultimately provided for a better overall understanding of loon populations. Who better to offer help than people who spend time on the water with these birds?”