Report: Economic analysis of the non-treaty commercial and recreational fisheries in Washington State

This report, published in 2008 by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, summarizes the economic importance of Washington fisheries using data from 2006. The report's Executive Summary is reprinted below, followed by summaries of data specific to Puget Sound.

Block seine fishing. Image courtesy of WDFW.
Block seine fishing. Image courtesy of WDFW.


This study was conducted with the express purpose of addressing the request from Governor Gregoire to explore the economic importance of the non-treaty commercial and recreational fisheries in the State of Washington. The study is designed to summarize the overall economic benefits of Washington’s non-treaty commercial and recreational fisheries for 2006.

Although the study estimates net economic values and economic impacts of both commercial and recreational fisheries, it is not sufficiently comprehensive and the values are not estimated with adequate precision to warrant a comparative analysis of the two fisheries.

Some components of net economic values were not quantified and, in the case of economic impacts, the effects associated with the spending by state resident anglers are fundamentally different from the effects generated by non-resident recreational anglers and by commercial fishers.

Study Conclusions
Ultimately, our findings indicate that commercial and recreational fisheries not only contribute employment and personal income, but also contribute in several other significant ways to Washington’s economy, as well as to its residents’ quality of life.

In terms of economic impacts, commercial and recreational fishing conducted in Washington fisheries directly and indirectly supported an estimated 16,374 jobs and $540 million in personal income in 2006. When viewed in the context of the Washington state economy, these levels of employment and earnings account for about 0.4 percent of total statewide employment and about 0.2 percent of total statewide personal income in 2006.

Recreational fishing generates the larger share of economic impacts, supporting 12,850 jobs or more than three-quarters of the fishing-related jobs in 2006. Of the jobs supported by recreational anglers, state residents accounted for more than 90 percent of the spending that supports these jobs.

While the spending by non-resident anglers contributes to the tourism economy in Washington State, spending by resident anglers serves to direct discretionary consumer spending toward fishing-related goods and services. As a consequence, spending by non-resident anglers plays a more pivotal role in supporting the state economy than does the spending by resident anglers.

The non-treaty commercial fishery in Washington waters also contributes an estimated $38 million in net economic values (net income or profits), allowing commercial fishers to participate in a livelihood that has been passed down from generation to generation.And, recreational fisheries generate an estimated $424 million in net economic values (over and above expenditures) to the estimated 725,000 residents who live and fish in Washington, suggesting that sport fishing substantially contributes to anglers’ quality of life.

Download the full report: Economic Analysis of the Non-Treaty Commercial and Recreational Fisheries in Washington State

Data specific to Puget Sound:

  • In the Puget Sound area, major commercial fishing ports are located in Seattle, Bellingham Bay, and Blaine. Ports are also located in Friday Harbor, Anacortes, La Conner, Everett, Tacoma, Olympia, and Shelton.  Seattle has traditionally served as an important entry port for Alaska, and many of the large seafood catcher-processors participating in Alaskan fisheries are based there. Blaine and Bellingham, both north of Seattle, are important ports for groundfish vessels, with about one-third of the Puget Sound port group’s fishing vessels home ported in Bellingham in 2001. In terms of the distribution of different sized vessels, Puget Sound is consistent with the West Coast as a whole, with about two-thirds of the vessels under 40 feet; however, one of the two vessels over 150 feet participating in West Coast fisheries is based in Seattle. (NMFS 2005) Along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, ports are located in Port Townsend, Sequim, Port Angeles, and Neah Bay. Port Angeles is the delivery port for the bulk of limited entry fixed gear and open access groundfish vessels in the Strait of Juan de Fuca region.
  • Outside of the coastal catch region, the North and South Puget Sound catch regions were the largest contributors to the overall Washington commercial fishery in 2006. The North Puget Sound catch area contributed nearly 7 percent of the pounds landed within the overall fishery and 14 percent of its ex- vessel value (Table 3). The South Puget Sound catch contributed a larger share to the overall Washington fishery, producing 9 percent of landed pounds and 19 percent of ex-vessel value. Within both catch regions, the salmon species group is a much bigger contributor to landings and ex-vessel values than it is in the other catch regions.  The value of salmon landings totaled $3.8 million in the South Puget Sound area and $2.9 million in the North Puget Sound area, accounting for 40 percent and 27 percent, respectively, of the value of all salmon landings within the overall Washington commercial fishery. Within both the North and South Puget Sound catch regions, salmon landings accounted for nearly one-third of the value of all landings. Shellfish, however, was the larger contributor to ex-vessel value in both areas, accounting for about two-thirds of total ex-vessel value within both the North and South Puget Sound catch regions. Within the Strait of Juan de Fuca catch region, which accounted for 0.8 percent of pounds landed and 1.7 percent of ex-vessel value within the overall Washington fishery, shellfish and groundfish are the major contributors.  Shellfish produced 83 percent of the catch area’s total pounds landed and 94 percent of its ex-vessel value. Groundfish accounted for most of the remaining landings and value within the catch area.

  • Anglers in Washington State catch finfish in marine and fresh waters and harvest shellfish along marine shorelines.  About two-thirds of the catch of bottomfish are caught in coastal waters and the remaining third caught in the marine waters of Puget Sound (Table 6).  Salmon are caught in both fresh waters and marine waters, with about 60 percent of the salmon catch occurring in marine waters.  Puget Sound salmon account for about 60 percent of all salmon caught in marine waters. In fresh waters, 57 percent of the salmon was caught in Puget Sound streams and 38 percent was caught in the Columbia River and its tributaries. Most of the steelhead (74%) and almost all of the sturgeon (95%) caught in Washington waters in 2006 were caught in the Columbia River and its tributaries.  Although catch numbers are not available for trout and other inland species, about 22 million trout and kokanee (land-locked salmon) are stocked annually in inland streams and lakes.

Further tables and information on economic value of these fisheries can be found in the full report.