State Changes Whale Watching Licenses, Budgets For Fish Habitat Restoration
Commercial Whale Watching Season Reduced to Three Months
By Washington Fish and Wildlife
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved rules establishing requirements for commercial whale watching operators and for the commercial viewing of Southern Resident killer whales and approved changes to spring bear special permits during its Dec. 18 meeting.
The commission also heard updates on the governor’s 2021-23 budget proposals that will be considered in the 2021 legislative session.
Staff shared an overview of the governor’s budget proposals that include strong investments in capital improvement projects to support fish production and habitat restoration.
The proposed state budget also includes resources to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, increases the department’s ability to provide assistance to landowners that receive hydraulic project approvals, and provides gap funding to mitigate shortfalls being felt by other dropping revenue sources that impact the department’s accounts.
The commission approved minor changes to the spring black bear permit hunt rule today, including clarifying check-in requirements, changing the dates of the hunting season, reducing one area by two permits in Long Beach and removing private timber company land in the Skagit hunt area.
Members noted the high levels of public comment opposing spring bear hunting seasons, and shared an intention to continue the discussion of the broader topic in the future.
The commission approved licensing requirements for operators of commercial whale watching eco-tours.
The approved rules include a three-month, July-September season when commercial viewing of SRKW by motorized commercial whale-watching vessels may happen at closer than one-half nautical mile during two, two-hour periods daily (limit of three motorized commercial whale-watching vessels per group of SRKW).
The commission also discussed a policy statement about SRKW recovery and additional whale watching recommendations for commercial and private vessels and plan to further discuss the draft at a future meeting.
The commission’s anticipated decision on dog training rules related to enforcement response needs scheduled for the Dec. 18 meeting had been shifted to a future commission meeting in early 2021.
The meeting was recorded and will available to the public on WDFW’s website. The public can also find information on upcoming meetings at the same webpage.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is a panel appointed by the governor that sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. WDFW is the primary state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish and wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fishing and hunting opportunities.