OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will take action on a proposed new management policy for Columbia River white sturgeon Jan. 21, when commission members will convene via a conference call.

The commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, postponed a vote scheduled on the policy Jan. 8, because only four commissioners were able to attend a public meeting that day.

By law, at least five commissioners of the nine-member commission must be present to approve or disapprove a measure. Two members, Ken Chew and George Orr, left the commission Dec. 31 when their terms expired. Three other members were absent for personal reasons.

The proposed sturgeon guidelines support “precautionary” reductions in harvest rates for stocks downriver from Bonneville Dam that have shown a marked decline in the abundance over the past three to five years. 

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon have advocated a reduction of at least 30 percent harvest over the next three years, and are preparing to announce this year’s catch levels and fishing seasons at a public meeting Feb. 8 in Oregon City.

That would follow a 40 percent catch reduction imposed during the 2010 fishing season.

The formula for allocating the catch between the recreational and commercial fisheries would remain the same under the new policy. As in past years, 80 percent of the allowable harvest will be reserved for the sport fishery and 20 percent for the commercial fishery.

In other business, the commission held a public discussion on four proposals scheduled for possible action at its Feb. 4-5 meeting in Olympia:

• A proposed fishing moratorium in the Elwha River Basin designed to support restoration of salmon and steelhead populations during and several years after work begins to remove two major dams from the river later this year.

• New Puget Sound crabbing regulations that reflect a policy approved by the commission last October to expand recreational fishing opportunities.

 • A new 2011-13 management policy for Columbia River summer chinook salmon, which are expected to return in record numbers this year.

• Policy guidance for WDFW on the North of Falcon process, where salmon-fishing seasons are set for the Pacific Ocean, the Columbia River, Puget Sound and other waters.

 For more information, see the commission’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/commission/