How to participate in the Surf Smelt rulemaking process

Quick facts

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is taking comments on smelt fishing rules until April 11, 2014

SeaDoc has prepared a fact sheet about smelt in the Salish Sea.

We encourage you to use the available data on smelt to form an opinion about smelt fishing and to share your conclusions with the Commission.


SeaDoc is focused on identifying problems in the marine ecosystem and then using science to help find solutions.

Recently we were able to provide some important data on some very important fish: Surf Smelt. Now these data on the recreational harvest of smelt, along with other information, are being used by the general public and fisheries managers to make an important decision about Surf Smelt harvest in Washington.

Surf Smelt are one of 10 species of small schooling fishes that are critical for turning energy from plankton into fat and energy to feed larger fish (like salmon and lingcod), marine birds, and marine mammals.

Also, they are one of the few forage fish species for which there is a commercial and recreational fishery in Washington. Last year we funded a project to look at how many pounds of smelt are being harvested in the recreational fishery. It turns out, more than managers expected.

Now the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is looking to the public to decide if they should reduce the commercial or the recreational smelt fisheries (or both). The decision is not a scientific one, but it does use science. This is an opportunity for members of the public to help decide if they are comfortable with the current harvest, or if they are worried that the current harvest level is taking too many smelt away from the bigger fish they care more about, or from marine birds they like to watch.  Specifically, the Fish and Wildlife Commission is considering three options.

  1. Leave things exactly as they are.
  2. Reduce both commercial and recreational harvests.
  3. Eliminate the commercial harvest and reduce the recreational harvest.

One of SeaDoc's primary goals is to make sure science gets off the shelf and gets used by decision makers and the public in making policy. We've done the science. Now it's time for it to get used.

SeaDoc is NOT an advocacy organization. We're not going to tell you what you should say in your comments, but we do want to encourage you use the available data to figure out your position and make your voice heard.

Check out our fact sheet on Surf Smelt in the Salish Sea. Use it to learn more about this important species and to learn how easy it is for you to be a part of this rule making process. Please share it with other people who are interested in the ecological and economic health of the Salish Sea.

Commenting is easy. You can do it online at the WDFW website. It can be as quick as filling out your name and choosing a preferred option, or you can include a comment of up to 1,000 characters. If you're interested in attending a public meeting and giving 3 minutes of in-person testimony, read our hints in the fact sheet.

Learn more about our smelt fishing study here.



Photos courtesy of J. Gaydos.