Fish and Wildlife Commission seeks higher penalties for poaching protected fish

Press release from Dept. of F&W 

OLYMPIA, WA 6/10/02 * The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission wants poachers who illegally harvest federally-protected salmon species to pay stiffer
state fines.

The commission, in its meeting here Friday, voted 7-1 (with one member
absent) to direct the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to
petition the court to increase bail amounts poachers must pay when cited for
illegally taking salmon protected by the federal Endangered Species Act

Under current state court rules, the bail amount for fishing during a closed
season is $100, with no distinction between taking an ESA-protected salmon,
such as a Puget Sound chinook salmon, or poaching a non-protected species.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission wants to see bail amounts increased to as
much as $800 per poached fish for those who knowingly take ESA-protected
species during closed seasons.

The new rules were developed in the wake of fish-poaching cases in 2001,
including an incident last July on the Skagit River in which a man readily
admitted to intentionally poaching a 40-pound protected chinook salmon. The
man was fined the maximum $100 state civil penalty, but his custom-built
fishing boat was also confiscated. The individual, Charles J. Hildebrand of
Mount Vernon, today was fined $5,000 by federal officials as well.

In other business, the commission:

* Expanded western Washington hunting
opportunities by responding to increasing band-tailed pigeon populations
with the re-opening of a hunting season that had been closed for 10 years.
In separate action, the commission extended pheasant hunting by two weeks at
several selected western Washington sites.

* Re-affirmed its earlier action establishing a southern
hunting boundary for Medicine Creek treaty tribes

* Honored long-time volunteer hunting education instructors,
many of whom have been involved in the program since its inception in the
1950s. There are more than 600 certified volunteer hunting education
instructors in Washington state, and last year more than 11,300 hunters took
hunter safety courses.

* Heard a report from Northwest Straits Marine Conservation
Committee representatives on a one-year pilot project to assess the job of
removing derelict fishing gear from Washington waters, including commercial
fishing nets, crab pots and other gear. The committee intends to remove 12
tons of gear over the next year, including so-called "ghost nets" that
continue to kill fish after being abandoned. The group is currently building
a database of known derelict gear sites, and standardizing gear-removal

* Received an update on yelloweye rockfish harvest reductions.
The long-lived species has been declared "overfished" by the National Marine
Fisheries Service, and fisheries agencies are developing long-term recovery
plans. WDFW intends to ask the commission for a zero bag limit on yelloweye
rockfish at the commission's August meeting.

* Heard a briefing on the 2001-02 public safety cougar removal
program, which authorized the use of hounds to remove specific numbers of
cougar in limited areas in response to demonstrated public safety needs.
WDFW staff told the commission that statewide cougar complaints dropped 47
percent, from 936 in 2000 to 498 in 2001, following the first public safety
cougar removal season early last year.
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