State eliminates plan to close herring bait fishery

Fish and Wildlife budget: Proposed cut was opposed by sports salmon anglers

October 7, 2011 

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has pulled a plan to eliminate the Puget Sound herring bait fishery, which was included in the budget-cutting package submitted to the state Office of Financial Management Sept. 22.

Axing the fishery, which supplies fresh bait to sports salmon anglers in Puget Sound, was one of several controversial measures agency officials selected to pare another $6.9 million in general fund money from Fish and Wildlife’s biennial budget.

The state needs to fill a projected $1.3 billion hole in the 2011-13 budget either with cuts or a combination of cuts and tax increases.

Eliminating the major source of bait used by salmon fishers touched off a flurry of protests from the sport-fishing industry and associated businesses.

“It didn’t pass the red-face test,” said Pam Botnen of Jerry’s Bait in Chimicum. The company fishes for herring and supplies herring as bait fish throughout the region. “It would have been devastating to a $3.6 million herring fishery.”

“I was shocked they included it in their original list of cuts,” said Tony Floor of the Northwest Marine Trade Association.

Joe Stohr, deputy director of Fish and Wildlife, said the package of cuts to reduce general fund support for the agency by 10 percent was pulled together quickly and, in this case, not analyzed thoroughly.

“… Given the impact to availability of bait fish in the sound, we decided to go in a different direction,” Stohr said via email Thursday.

Eliminating the herring fishery was part of a $186,000 savings the agency expected that also includes a 30 percent reduction in the commercial sea urchin and sea cucumber fisheries.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444

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