Ericksen save-the-whales bill puts emphasis on new salmon hatcheries

OLYMPIA – A proposal from state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale,
would leverage private investment in salmon hatcheries to help restore
declining orca populations on Puget Sound.
Under Senate Bill 5824, the first new hatchery would go to Bellingham,
testing the Alaska model for hatchery management in Washington state.
In Alaska, hatcheries are largely self-funded by the sale of returning
fish, and have helped make that state’s fisheries among the
healthiest in the world.

The bill would direct the Department of Fish and Wildlife to pursue
opportunities for private organizations to build and operate fish
hatcheries, either independently or in partnership with the state.
Washington’s existing hatcheries are operated directly by the
state.

Ericksen, recently appointed to the state Southern Resident Killer
Whale Task Force, said the new approach offers a way to harness the
power of the marketplace for orca recovery. “One of the biggest
problems we face is rebuilding salmon populations to provide feedstock
for the orca. Improving our hatchery system is an important first
step.

“Tearing down dams, major land grabs and land-use restrictions are
not the answer. A more robust hatchery system not only would mean more
food for orcas, but also more opportunities for commercial and
recreational fishermen, more tourism, and more good-paying jobs in our
communities.”

Ericksen’s proposal embraces the Port of Bellingham’s plan to
develop a new hatchery on a 237-acre site on the city’s waterfront.
The bill would provide $42 million for the project.

The measure would require the Department of Fish and Wildlife to
report on prospects for building a fiscally sustainable hatchery
system along the Alaska model. It also would require the department to
establish a bounty system to encourage Washington residents to hunt
sea lions and other predators that interfere with state goals for
salmon recovery.

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