The House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources is scheduled to vote today on a bill seeking to improve Southern Resident killer whale food supply. HB 2504 sponsored by Rep. Jim Walsh (R-19) and cosponsored by Chair Brian Blake (D-19) would have the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) maintain salmon hatchery production in Grays Harbor, Pacific, Mason and Wahkiakum counties equal to that of the 20-year average.
At the bill’s Jan. 21 public hearing, Walsh described the legislation as “tightly focused” and said it would avoid “micromanaging the department. I think it was the right…balance between setting a policy goal without getting too far in the weeds and telling (the) department how to do it. I think it will also help put the right pressure on federal agencies and other stakeholders.”
WDFW manages 80 fish hatcheries throughout the state, 75 percent of which produce salmon or steelhead. The other 25 percent produce trout and other fish.
Speaking in support of the bill, WDFW Hatchery Division Manager Eric Kinne told the committee that it “is consistent with the department’s hatchery proposal to increase hatchery production. The department looks for responsible opportunities to increase salmon production in order to increase prey base for Southern Resident Orca as well as enhance fishing opportunity. This bill helps with both of those objectives.”