This summer and fall, state officials are expecting strong numbers for salmon in Puget Sound and in Washington rivers. But you won't find much – if any – Washington salmon at farmers markets. You'll be buying Alaskan fish instead.
That's because the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission (WFWC), which regulates the state's salmon fishery, has heaped restrictions on the industry. The result is limited opportunities for commercial fishers to go after salmon here. So limited, in fact, many drive their boats to Alaska, where fewer restrictions exist.
Sport fishers, the weekend anglers who catch fish for dinner, are gradually getting a higher percentage of the fishing permits that once belonged to small commercial fishers. These fishers claim there's a powerful—and curious—lobby pushing for these restrictions.
The latest battle is over the lower Columbia River. The WFWC voted in January to phase out gillnetting—the method many small commercial fishers rely on—in the main channel. Those gillnetters must switch to another net called a purse seine or fish the side channels. Sport fishers will get an increasingly higher percentage of the permits that once belonged to the gillnetters. The new restrictions don't apply to Native American tribes, who by treaty receive 50% of fishing permits.
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