SEATTLE – Millions of dollars in fish could be at stake if state lawmakers can’t agree on a budget and avoid a government shutdown.
Dozens of hatcheries across Washington, where fish are raised, could be temporarily closed. There are millions of fish being raised by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The fish need attention and care but the workers who provide that could be off the job without a paycheck.
WDFW is busy dusting off a contingency plan from 2013 — the last time a state government shutdown was looming. A department administrator says virtually all employees could be furloughed during a shutdown.
This is uncharted territory for the department. Officials aren’t exactly sure how everything will operate during such a furlough. Hatcheries, as well as commercial and recreational fisheries and game farms, will not be staffed. Hunting and fishing licenses and Discovery Passes will not be issued. Other impacts include halting waterway construction including the building of docks.
WDFW regional director Bob Everitt says the department is considering bringing in volunteers to save the $34 million of hatchery fish.
“[The fish] are in a hatchery facility that has pumps and they have to be fed,” said Everitt. “It’s like going away on vacation and leaving your pet. Somebody has to take care of them. There will be a need to manage those facilities to ensure the water remains flowing.”
Long-term impact from what could happen at hatcheries means a short supply of salmon and other type of fish in fisheries for the upcoming fishing seasons.
Crabbing and clamming in area waterways will also be affected by a potential state government shutdown, according to Everitt.