Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Fish & Boat Commission Votes To Close Hatcheries, Limit Stocking If Legislature Does Not Act On License Fee Bill

Facing escalating costs and declining revenues after 12 years without an increase in the price of a fishing license, the Fish and Boat Commission voted Monday to reduce spending by $2 million in fiscal year 2018-19 if the legislature does not act on legislation-- Senate Bill 30 (Eichelberger- R-Blair) to raise license fees.
The action came during the agency’s quarterly business meeting being held Monday and Tuesday.
The current plan for achieving the $2 million reduction in operating expenses would involve closing two warmwater hatcheries and one trout hatchery. The plan would reduce the number of trout stocked in 2019 by 7.5 percent and would result in severe reductions to the PFBC’s cooperative nursery program.
PFBC Executive Director John Arway said that, barring a price increase established by the state legislature, the agency must begin to take these steps to remain financially solvent and provide basic services to the nearly 850,000 anglers who purchase a license each year.
“The price of a general fishing license was last raised in 2005,” he said. “Since then, we have continued to provide the same level of services to our customers, while seeking a price increase from the state legislature. The Senate has acted twice and passed legislation in 2016 and 2017 to give the Commission the authority to set license fees. But the House has failed to vote on Senate Bill 30. Until they do, we must cut expenses to pay our bills.”
Closing the hatcheries would result in the elimination of 240,000 adult stocked trout in 61 streams and four lakes. See the PFBC website for specific waters – map, list.)
The production and stocking of warmwater species would also be affected, including walleye, American shad, Musky, Northern Pike and Channel Catfish.
“The three hatcheries won’t be fully closed until late 2018 or early 2019, so there is still time remaining this year for a legislative solution,” added Arway. “It is imperative that the House of Representatives act now and pass Senate Bill 30.”
The House Game and Fisheries Committee had a meeting scheduled on the bill for Tuesday, but it was canceled.

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