Upcoming Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission Hearings

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider updating its policy for managing Puget Sound crab fisheries at a meeting scheduled Oct. 1-2 in Olympia.The nine-member citizen commission, which establishes policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will consider options that would expand recreational crab fishing opportunities within established conservation guidelines.In addition, the commission will hold a public hearing to discuss a possible restrictions on the use of lead fishing tackle at 13 lakes with nesting loons. As part of that discussion, the commission will review the findings of a WDFW advisory group established to assess scientific studies on risks posed to loons that ingest lead fishing tackle and recommend ways to minimize those risks.The commission will continue to accept written comments on banning the use of lead weights on those lakes through Nov. 19. Comments may be submitted to WDFW Rules Coordinator Lori Preuss at Lori.Preuss@dfw.wa.gov or 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA, 98501.Additional information on loons and lead weights is available on WDFW's website at //wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/loons/.A separate hearing on other proposed changes in state fishing rules on a variety of issues ranging from smelt seasons to Free Fishing Weekend has been postponed until the commission's meeting in December. The commission will also accept public comments through Nov. 19 on those proposals, which are outlined on WDFW's website at //wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/rule_proposals/.For its upcoming meeting in October, the commission will convene at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 1 and 9 a.m. Oct. 2 on the first floor of the Natural Resources Building in Olympia at 1111 Washington St. S.E. in Olympia. A complete agenda for the meeting is available on the WDFW website at //wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings/2010/.Three options under consideration by the commission for Puget Sound crab fisheries are attached to that agenda. All three options are consistent with findings by the state Auditor's Office earlier this year that the current policy for allocating the catch between non-tribal commercial and recreational fisheries will not accommodate the continuing growth in the number of Puget Sound sport crabbers.At a public hearing in August, sport fishers supported increasing their share of the catch, while commercial crabbers said significant reductions in their catch quota would harm the future of the industry. Treaty tribal fisheries would not be affected by any of the options under consideration by the commission.On a separate issue, the commission will consider proposals by WDFW to acquire or exchange several properties to benefit wildlife in counties around the state.In addition, the commission will receive briefings from WDFW staff on the Columbia River spring and summer chinook fisheries, the Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Plan and the department's scientific research on fish, wildlife and habitat issues.

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