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WDFW Commission adopts rules limiting commercial whale watching

OLYMPIA – At its December 18, 2020 Washington Fish and Wildlife  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 also approved changes to spring bear special permits. 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 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, 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 discussion of the broader topic in the future.

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). WDFW is the primary state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish and wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing and hunting opportunities.

1 comment

  • mark anderson Wednesday, 23 December 2020 12:16 Comment Link Report

    If you happen to be a resident orca, this is the best news since 1997, when the population began a long and continued decline, matched in a scientific paper by David Bain with the growth of the whale watching industry. We should all be grateful that the Commission was willing to look at decades of accumulated science on boat/whale interactions - 100% of which are negative, and most of which directly contribute to starvation, the primary cause of death in our local population. This is a great day for the whales, and a great day for those who care about the whales' survival.

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