A new bag limit on scoters and certain other ducks is a result of SeaDoc research conducted several years ago.
From 1980 to 2005, the population of scoters in Puget Sound declined by 50%.
In 2006, SeaDoc funded a detailed analysis of hunting mortality on scoter populations in Washington State.
This study showed that although overall scoter harvest rates in Puget Sound were within sustainable levels, harvest levels in several Washington counties were at levels thought to be not sustainable.
At that time, the Department of Fish and Wildlife embarked upon additional banding and monitoring of scoters over a three-year period.
In August of 2010, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted a new daily bag limit of 2 per day for scoters, long-tailed ducks and goldeneyes. (The prior limit was 4 per day for scoters and long-tail ducks, and 7 per day for goldeneyes.)
These are all long-lived species that depend on high adult survival. While hunting might not be identified as the reason for declines in species such as scoters, the fact that populations have declined so precipitously is cause for concern as hunting mortality can be additive or even synergistic with other factors causing declines.
SeaDoc chief scientist Joe Gaydos notes that "The Department of Fish and Wildlife has done an outstanding job of monitoring Puget Sound sea duck populations since 1993. Don Kraege and the biologists at WDFW should be recognized for the outstanding job they have done. Every effort has been made to retain hunting opportunities for the public while using the best available science to determine when hunting pressure could be negatively impacting the long-term sustainability of populations and when bag limits should be reduced."
The current reduction in scoter, long-tailed duck and goldeneye daily bag limits is a scientifically grounded decision that supports the long-term sustainability of these populations.
Read a summary of the original study.
Photo by Len Blumin