Latest from R-6 on Willapa.

Update on Experimental Fishery

Hello all,

As you all know, the Department has been following guidance in the Willapa Bay policy (C-3622) in developing alternative gear. The purpose has been to provide opportunity to target fishery harvests on abundant hatchery stocks, reduce the number of hatchery-origin fish in natural spawning areas, limit mortalities on non-target stocks, and provide commercial fishing opportunities. In pursuit of this purpose, the Department has initiated a number of steps (outlined below) to develop an opportunity for a fish trap in the Naselle tidewaters. Over the course of the process thus far, there have been a number of concerns expressed from the public on the use of fish trap gear. Although there have been discussions with commercial stakeholders, advisors and the public, there needs to be more public dialogue regarding the purpose, risks and benefits. Therefore, rather than continue to pursue the process for implementation in 2017, the Department would like to take the opportunity to solicit more public engagement to shape a successful program in 2018.

Steps taken in 2016-17
In 2016, staff sent a letter to the commercial stakeholders (on May 18, 2016 and again on December 15, 2016) asking for alternative gear ideas. The Department received a number of ideas, but only the fish trap proponent followed through by providing staff more information to help evaluate its potential.
In March of 2017, a presentation was made to the Fish and Wildlife Commission by the fish trap proponents that described a desire to fish outside of the normal commercial area and in August in order to be able to intercept hatchery-origin chinook and help meet the intent of the Willapa Bay policy. At that meeting the FWC asked staff to look into ways for moving forward with fishing a trap.
Staff identified two pathways that could provide opportunity to test whether or not fish trap gear could be used to recruit hatchery chinook. The first pathway was as a research project, funded by WDFW. However the Department was unable to identify the funds necessary to follow this path. The second pathway was to pursue an emerging commercial fishery.
An emerging commercial fishery would allow for a fish trap to legally operate, and there are two types of an emerging commercial fishery: a trial fishery and an experimental fishery. A trial fishery would have unlimited entry, an experimental fishery would have limited entry and would require a process by which the limits would be defined.
The Department initially pursued the trial fishery option with unlimited entry and filed the CR101 (notice of intended rule-making) on April 19, 2017. Staff held three meetings at the end of May and beginning of June to solicit input on the trial fishery (commercial stakeholders, advisor, and public). The same information was presented at all three meetings. As public input in the Rule Making process and interest in the trial fishery was collected, it became apparent that the unlimited nature of the trial fishery would make it difficult to maintain an orderly fishery and impose necessary fishery controls. Therefore, we rescinded the CR101 on June 13, 2017 and filed a new CR101 for an experimental fishery on June 14, 2017 to pursue a revised rule proposal that limits entry to the fishery using traps.
The Department has convened a five member advisory board to provide comment on proposed limits to the number and qualifications of experimental fishery participants. Those advisors, were sent an initial proposal on limits on July 7, 2017 for review and will be in place until the Rule Making process is complete. Among other limiters, the proposal includes a random drawing from among qualified participants if the number exceeds the number of allowable permits.
Staff held three meetings to solicit input on the experimental fishery (commercial stakeholders, advisor, and public). The same information was presented at all three meetings. Public concerns were raised over the impact that such a fishery would have on the freshwater recreational fishery and the limited amount of time the recreational community had to become familiar with the proposal.

Next Steps
Solicit interested parties this fall to apply for a position on an enhanced advisory group. In addition to advising the Department on fishery rules, this group will examine the role, benefits and impacts of using a fish trap in an experimental fishery. Information on the application process will be forthcoming.
Maintain information on the development of the experimental fishery on the WDFW website (
Convene a number of public advisory meetings and public workshops this fall and winter dedicated to examination of the utilization of fish trap gear.
Continue the Rule Making process for implementation in 2018.

Annette Hoffmann
Reg 6 Fish Program Manager
Dazed and confused.............the fog is closing in