Sound management by state fisheries assures availability of salmon for shoppers and killer whales

Op-ed published Sept. 6, 2020 in The Everett Herald

West Coast fisheries, especially those in Washington state, benefit from some of the most rigorous monitoring of any fisheries in the world.

Salmon fisheries are the ultimate example. The state Department of Fish and Wildife monitors all life stages throughout the ocean, bays, major rivers and minor streams. We monitor commercial and recreational fishers on the water, at boat ramps and public docks, tracking catch from harvest through the point of sale. This information helps fisheries managers make predictions about the number of fish returning and how many fish are being harvested to help ensure healthy returns into the future.

Seafood harvested in Washington is more sustainable than seafood harvested in many other parts of the world because of our stringent monitoring and oversight.

In recent years, the plight of the iconic Southern Resident killer whale has put the spotlight on Washington’s salmon fisheries. The very valid concern for Southern Resident orcas, which depend on healthy salmon populations and are an integral part of our ecosystem and culture, led to oversimplified interpretations of salmon management and consumers buying less Washington-harvested seafood.

Washington’s environmentally conscious consumer base is looking for information on fisheries management to help them make sound, conservation-minded purchases.

Fisheries management, including salmon management, is science-driven and highly monitored. Season setting considers ecosystem impacts, and the harvest quotas are centered around conservation and recovery objectives.

It’s important for the public to know that commercial and recreational fishing seasons are designed to minimize how often fishing boats and Southern Resident orcas cross paths. We work hard to preserve the salmon runs most critical to orca survival. We have developed a thoughtful and conservative approach to raising and releasing hatchery salmon in order to bolster orcas’ access to food in the right places and at the right times, while optimizing commercial fishing opportunity and wild salmon recovery.

Washington seafood is sustainable seafood.

Consumers should feel secure in the knowledge that their choice to eat local seafood is compatible with the recovery of Southern Resident orca whales and healthy, sustainable ecosystems. When you buy Washington seafood at your grocer, off the dock or at the farmers market, you support local fishers and Washington’s economy for years to come.

Kelly Cunningham is the director of the Fish Program at Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife, where he directs and oversees all aspects of the program, including the Fish Management Division, Hatcheries and Science Divisions.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.