Gov. Mike Lowry has signed a bill requiring the Department of Fish and Wildlife to fin-clip its hatchery-raised Puget Sound coho salmon, beginning this year.
All state-produced coho must be marked starting in 1996.
Such marking will enable fishermen to recognize hatchery-produced fish when the fish return from the sea as adults, starting in 1997, and that might enable the department to establish fishing seasons at times and places it otherwise could not. Fishermen who are able to identify hatchery salmon presumably could retain only those while releasing wild fish unharmed if run-size estimates require it.
The bill that Lowry signed recently sets the goal of marking hatchery chinook salmon, also, but the technology to do so is not yet available.
The bill also allows for the marking of fish reared by Indian tribes, at state expense, if the tribes cooperate.
The state budget bill approved at the end of the legislative session provided $1 million to fund the marking. The Fish and Wildlife Department was directed to absorb the additional $1 million estimated to complete the project for the 1995 brood year. Those fish will return as adults in 1998.