By Bob Brown
Two objectives of wildlife management are to maintain healthy wildlife populations and provide satisfactory recreational experiences. By any standard, that’s a tall order.
In a Wildlife Society Bulletin article, co-author Daniel K. Edwards said researching and using public opinions in management decisions is important for any wildlife agency, because no matter how biologically sound a wildlife policy seems, it will be effective only if the public accepts and complies with it. If wildlife managers make decisions without prior knowledge of public attitudes and opinions, new policies may be easily misunderstood or resented and strongly opposed.
To offset such situations, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fishery managers involved in the 2017 salmon season-setting process, known as North of Falcon, have scheduled more than a dozen meetings through mid-April for recreational anglers, commercial fishers and others interested in salmon to discuss issues affecting regional and statewide salmon fisheries with department representatives. Also, to express their opinions and ideas.
Schedules of meetings are available on the department’s website, which also includes an online commenting tool, salmon forecasts, and more information about the annual North of Falcon salmon season-setting process.
WDFW's director, Jim Unsworth, said as fisheries managers develop this year’s salmon seasons, public participation in that process is vital, and he strongly encourages people to get involved and share their thoughts. Whether it’s at one of the public meetings, online or in discussions with advisory group members, public input is essential in developing fisheries, he said.
Unsworth noted some people have asked the state to allow the public to attend state-tribal negotiations. Treaty tribes are not subject to state open meeting laws, so both parties would have to agree to open negotiations to the public.
These government-to-government meetings must occur for fishing seasons to be set. Refusing to meet with the tribes because they won't allow the public to attend negotiations would be unproductive for everyone involved. Unsworth added he understands closed negotiations are a source of frustration for many in the salmon fishing community, but he hopes people will be respectful of the process.
Fisheries managers will continue to keep people informed throughout the negotiations and work with the tribes at making the process as transparent as possible, he said. He added that state and tribal co-managers are far more effective when working together at recovering and protecting fish and wildlife in Washington.
“I am committed to working with the tribes to improve the process in making it as open and transparent as possible, and ensure our state’s resources are sustainable for future generations,” said Unsworth.]
The annual process of setting salmon fishing seasons is in conjunction with public meetings conducted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). The council is responsible for establishing fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.
North of Falcon typically takes place in March and April. The PFMC is expected to adopt final ocean fishing seasons and harvest levels at its April 7-11 meeting in Sacramento, Calif. The 2017 salmon fisheries package for Washington’s inside waters is expected to be completed by the state and tribal co-managers during the PFMC meeting.
Bob Brown lives in Roy and is a freelance outdoors writer. He can be contacted at robertb1285@centurylink.