WDFW Seeks Police Powers for Scientists, Technicians
from Farm Bureau News
At a hearing Monday, Jan. 15, Washington Farm Bureau raised concerns about HB 1075, which would allow any Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife employee to board private vessels or enter commercial property to inspect game, fish and shellfish, collect tissue or other samples, and review records. The bill would also require fishermen to allow department personnel to board and remain onboard to observe commercial harvest operations.
Anyone who refuses WDFW staff permission to enter their property or vessel would be guilty of a gross misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
WDFW enforcement officers already have authority to conduct warrantless searches of hunters, fishermen, and commercial facilities under many circumstances. However, this bill would allow any WDFW employee – particularly biologists, according to the department – to enter private businesses, including fishing vessels, without permission or a search warrant. Farm Bureau believes this is a clear violation of state and federal constitutional protections.
Fortunately, Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) who introduced the bill, agreed to work with Farm Bureau and the department to reach agreement on language that allows WDFW to protect and manage our state’s valuable wildlife and fisheries resources without stripping private citizens of basic constitutional protections.