We were thrilled to read the copy of recently introduced House Bill 1229. This would change, profoundly, the charter for the Department of Fish and Wildlife as it pertains to establishing state fishing seasons. The proposed changes affect an influential portion of the department’s charter (RCW 77.04, specifically) and while it’s worth reading the bill itself, here’s the TL;DR version (strikethru is proposed deletions, underlines proposed additions):
(2) The department shall conserve the wildlife and food fish, 2 game fish, and shellfish resources in a manner that does not impair the resource. In a manner consistent with this goal, the department shall seek to
maintain the economic well-being and stability of the fishing industry in the stateoptimize the economic value of the state’s fishery resource.
(3) The department shall promote orderly fisheries and shall
enhance and improve recreational and commercial fishing in this state, when making fisheries management determinations and setting fishing seasons, maximize recreational fishing opportunity within available harvests before determining commercial fishing opportunity.
This has the potential to be a seismic event in fisheries management. It’s also incredibly sane. Recreationally caught fish provide dramatically more economic value to the state than the same fish commercially caught. More taxes, and most certainly more licensing revenue. In fact the bill authors proposed adding a new section to the RCW clearly articulating this argument:
The legislature further finds that sports fishing is a billion dollar industry in Washington and the single largest source of funding to the department of fish and wildlife. The seventy-one million dollars generated by the buyers of recreational fishing licenses in the 2013-2015 fiscal biennium represents over nineteen percent of the department of fish and wildlife’s total budget. By comparison, the commercial fishing industry only generated one and one-half million dollars in funding over the same time period to the department of fish and wildlife, which amounts to less than one-half of one percent of the agency’s overall budget.
It is right there in black and white.. $71M vs. $1.5M — that’s forty seven times the contribution to the departments budget. The bill also covers the benefits of selective recreational fishing, and the importance of stable season schedules to the recreational and tourism industries. In fact we’ll be covering the merits of fixed calendar window seasons, vs. fixed quota seasons in an upcoming story — so we couldn’t be happier to see it in this draft bill.
Do not underestimate the importance of House Bill 1229. It’s a huge huge opportunity! Our sincere thanks to the ten representatives who are sponsoring it!