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News / Sports / Outdoors

State seeks commercial fishing fee increases

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter
Published: August 11, 2016, 6:04am

A proposal to increase commercial fishing license fees — including a new crew member charge — has been unveiled by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

John Long, the agency’s regional director in Southwest Washington, told a public meeting in Vancouver on Monday the proposal would generate about $1 million from fee increases.

Another portion of the proposal calls for redirecting revenue from commercial fees and an existing fish landing tax into the state Wildlife Account. Currently, that money goes into the state General Fund.

Long said redirecting the money would generate an additional $3.6 million for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The proposals require approval of the state Legislature.

Department director Jim Unsworth began an initiative in 2015 called Washington’s Wild Future to guide the agency’s operations and generate additional revenue. Increases in sport-fishing and hunting license fees also are proposed.

Long said increased operating costs and budget cuts since the economic recession of 2008 have taken a toll on the department. The agency needs $24 million in new revenue to maintain existing programs, he added.

Under the fee proposals for 2017-19, an annual commercial crew member license would cost $101. A five-day temporary license would be offered for $29.50. Alaska and Oregon have similar requirements.

Salmon gillnet licenses would remain $585. Columbia River purse seine and beach seine licenses are proposed to increase from $290 to $400.

Long said there are a couple of reasons why the agency is not proposing to increase the salmon gillnet fee.

The Columbia River reforms adopted in 2013 call for a end to gillnetting in the main stem Columbia beginning next year. Gillnets are to be limited to off-channel areas.

Also, the department uses General Fund dollars and commercial license fees to support commercial fisheries.

“If approved by the Legislature, redirecting the landing tax General Fund dollars from the Department of Revenue to the agency would cover the majority of the costs associated with conducting and managing commercial salmon fisheries,’’ Long said. “This redirect would equate to approximately $4 million per fiscal year. Given the limited number of commercial licenses, we would need to significantly increase the license fees to achieve this dollar figure. We believe this approach makes more sense than an increase in license fees.’’

A salmon troll license would increase from $585 to $735. A salmon ocean delivery license would remain at $585.

Salmon charter and sport-fishing guide licenses also are proposed to increase.

A salmon charter license would increase from $620 to $700. A food fish (salmon, sturgeon) license would increase from $220 to $480. A game fish (steelhead, walleye, trout) license would increase from $250 to $480.

A combination game and food fish guide license would increase from $435 to $800.

Washington charges non-resident commercial fishermen higher license fees than residents. The proposal would equalize those fees.

Long said the department still welcomes comments on the Wild Future initiative.

The proposals would double the cost of salmon and steelhead fishing in the Columbia River by charging $17 for a salmon catch-record card and $17 for a steelhead catch-record card, along with small increase in the fees for a freshwater fishing license and Columbia River endorsement.

Agency officials must submit the budget proposal to the governor’s office in September.

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