Aquatic invasive species pose both economic and ecological risks to the state of Washington. The Columbia Basin is one of the few regions in the lower 48 states where zebra and quagga mussels are not present. Regional economists estimate these invasive mussels could cause $100 million in damage annually if allowed to establish in the region. Washington's salmon recovery efforts and the Columbia River hydroelectric system also could be harmed. Across the nation, these invasive species have cost $5 billion in damage.
WDFW's legislative proposal emphasized prevention as the most effective approach to aquatic invasive species. It recognized that a rapid response is the next best alternative if prevention fails. It authorized the WDFW to expedite actions to control, contain and eradicate aquatic invasive species using techniques such as quarantining a body of water or petitioning the governor for emergency measures. The proposal also promoted an integrated management system to encourage cooperative management of infested sites and build public/private partnerships.
Improving Hunter Education and Increasing Public Safety
State law requires anyone born after Jan. 1, 1972, to complete a hunter education course approved by WDFW before buying a hunting license. About 12,500 students across the state annually participate in the free course, which is administered by volunteer instructors who are unpaid.
WDFW proposed legislation that would clarify and revise to the state hunter education law to improve the program and increase public safety. Those changes included requiring all hunter education students be at least 8 years old; requiring a licensed hunter at least 18 years old, who is not hunting under a one-year hunter education deferral, to accompany hunters between the ages of 8 and 14 and hunters of any age who are hunting under a deferral; establishing fees of up to $20 per student for all hunter education courses; and authorizing the use of fee revenue to cover administrative costs of internet-based training, stipends for instructors and instructional costs.
WDFW proposed legislation that would increase penalties to more effectively deter illegal behavior that negatively impacts natural resources. The proposal also included technical changes that would increases the enforceability and clarity of Title 77 RCW. Changes included applying additional penalties for possessing certain protected fish species; increasing the penalty for coming too close to or feeding endangered southern resident orca whales; strengthening the prohibitions on shark fin trafficking; and establishing a penalty for possessing illegally harvested wildlife taken from another state or country.
This proposal would increase the protection of fish and wildlife species by providing adequate penalty deterrents, offering law enforcement additional tools to combat poaching, and reducing regulatory confusion.
WDFW's Legislative Mandate
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife operates as the state’s principal agency for species protection and conservation, under a mandate defined in Title 77 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). That legislative mandate directs the department to preserve, protect, perpetuate and manage fish and wildlife and to provide fishing and hunting opportunities. Department activities also are subject to provisions ofTitle 220 and Title 232 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC).