FISHERIES – Angling groups asked Washington lawmakers to enact restrictions on suction dredge mining in state waters during a legislative hearing in Olympia last week.
Prospectors using suction dredges vacuum the bed of a stream, river, lake or shoreline and process the material through a motor-powered sluice in search of gold.
Current regulations for recreational suction dredging are out of sync with other instream activities and recreational user groups, such as anglers.
“Prospectors are allowed to dredge in areas anglers aren’t even allowed to use a barbed hook,” said John Hicks, owner of Sea Run Pursuits.
Permits are free and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is not able to track the majority of activity, he said.
HB2467 calls for licensing prospectors and setting dredging seasons restrictions in sensitive waters to protect aquatic food sources and spawning areas for fish.
The bill also would require the state study, monitor and enforce regulations prospecting as they do for angling.
“We’re asking prospectors to be accountable, just as we ask anglers to be accountable,” said Gregg Bafundo, Washington field coordinator for Trout Unlimited.
Suction dredging can disturb aquatic life, change stream channels, increase water turbidity and erode banks, he said.