Salmon co-managers agree on Puget Sound fisheries, will work to improve season-setting process

State and tribal fishery managers today agreed to Puget Sound salmon-fishing seasons for 2016, ending several weeks of extended negotiations.

Officials with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, and treaty tribes also agreed to work together to improve the process of setting salmon-fishing seasons, known as “North of Falcon.” The co-managers did not reach agreement during the annual season-setting process, which concluded in mid-April.

Anticipated low numbers of salmon – especially coho – returning to Puget Sound made this year’s negotiations challenging.

“Our first priority is to develop fisheries that are consistent with efforts to protect and rebuild wild salmon stocks,” said Jim Unsworth, director of WDFW. “Reaching an agreement on how to do that proved very challenging this year. Ultimately, we agreed on a package of fisheries that places a priority on conservation while allowing for limited fishing opportunities in Puget Sound.”

State and tribal fisheries will be greatly reduced this year in Puget Sound as low returns of chinook, chum and coho are expected. The tribes and state have closed all fisheries directed at returning coho, except in a few areas where sufficient fish are expected back this year.

With this season’s fisheries resolved, the co-managers will focus on addressing long-term resource management concerns, such as restoring habitat and boosting salmon stocks.

“Habitat restoration and protection must be at the center of that effort,” said Lorraine Loomis, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “There is a direct connection between salmon habitat and fishing opportunities. We can’t expect salmon to thrive while their habitat continues to be lost and damaged.”

WDFW and tribal leaders said they appreciated the governor’s leadership and participation in the process, and that they remain committed to co-management of the state’s shared resources. They believe the state and tribes are most effective when working together to conserve fish, wildlife and their habitat.

Changes to this year’s Puget Sound sport salmon fisheries can be found on WDFW’s website, where information on recreational salmon fisheries in ocean waters and the Columbia River also is available.

For information on tribal fisheries, contact the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.