State shutdown would put pinch on crabbing season

It appears unlikely the government will shut down due to failure to pass a state budget, but doing so would delay the opening of crabbing season in Puget Sound waters.

A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife news release says a government shutdown would force the department to close fisheries across the state. While all department operations would close, a government shutdown would delay crabbing season in marine areas surrounding Whidbey Island.

Crabbing season is slated to open Saturday, July 1.

Lawmakers had until 11:59 p.m. Friday, June 30, to sign a two-year operating budget into law. As of Friday morning, it was reported a budget deal was “agreed in principle.”

A shutdown would cause the department to temporarily lay off around 1,800 employees. It would also cause the department license sales network to close, and would leave the department’s 33 wildlife areas unstaffed.

However, the state is required by federal law to keep open the 42 hatcheries where the department produces fish protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Department Deputy Director Joe Stohr said policing in a shutdown scenario would rely on local law enforcement, as departmental enforcement officers and fish biologists would be temporarily laid off. He said it’s unlikely anyone who set their crab pots would see local law enforcement, but it’s a possibility.

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