Washington State House Democrats


Local lawmakers introduce bill to clean up lost fishing nets

OLYMPIA – Legislation introduced last week would help reduce the amount of lost fishing nets wreaking havoc in waterways around the state. When a commercial fishing boat loses a net, current state law encourages them to report it, so groups can try and locate lost nets. Under Sen. Sharon Nelson and Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon’s proposal, reporting lost nets would now be required.

“Commercial fishing is a significant part of our state’s past and future, as is our clean and healthy environment,” said Fitzgibbon, D-Burien. “In the best interest of all parties, we need to reduce the number of nets out there killing fish and wildlife that no one will ever see on their kitchen table.”

Since the program’s inception in 2003, only two nets have been reported lost. The Northwest Straits Initiative removed one of those in Port Susan Bay, bordered by Camano Island. The group estimated that the net, in 23 weeks time, killed 1,800 birds, 450 salmon, 11 harbor seals and 16,900 crabs.

“When fishing nets and other gear are left abandoned in our waterways, we’re not only putting hundreds of marine animals in danger, we’re also disrupting critical lifecycles and ecosystems for decades to come,“ said Sen. Nelson, D-Maury Island. “This bill is a good step towards encouraging better stewardship of our waterways.”

In addition to the fishing net change, anyone out getting shellfish would be encouraged to report lost posts so groups can retrieve them. This would be another step to reduce unnecessary loss of wildlife bringing no benefit.

“Derelict fishing gear has been shown to be a serious threat to the survival of fish, birds and marine mammals as well as a safety hazard for SCUBA divers,” said Doug Myers, Director of Science for People for Puget Sound.  “The Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan, recently updated with broad stakeholder involvement from fishing groups, scientists and environmental organizations, identifies derelict fishing gear as a continued threat to rockfish recovery in Puget Sound. 

“People for Puget Sound supports implementation of all of the recommendations of the Rockfish Conservation Plan and applauds this significant first step.”

Nelson and Fitzgibbon are seeking public hearings on their companion legislation, Senate Bill 5661 and House Bill 1717. The 2011 legislative session is scheduled to end April 24.