OLYMPIA – Those accustomed to collecting moon snails, limpets and other shellfish are advised that new regulations will take effect May 1 that set daily harvest limits for all shellfish not previously regulated by the state.
Also effective that date is a new daily limit on the harvest of marine fish in Puget Sound. Under the new regulation, fishers may catch no more than two marine fish of any single species that is not subject to other catch limits.
Mackerel and shiner perch are the only two species exempted from the new two-fish per species rule on marine fish in Puget Sound.
Harvesters are advised to check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet for more information on the new fishing limits.
Mary Lou Mills, a biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the new limits are necessary to preserve fish and shellfish species that are being depleted by unregulated harvesting.
"As our population grows, species that were once common to our waters and shorelines are beginning to disappear at popular sites," Mills said. "We recognize these new harvest limits are a big change for people who make regular use of these species, but they are necessary to protect the resource."
Mills noted that California, Oregon and British Columbia have already taken similar action to protect these previously unregulated species.
Under the new shellfish regulations, harvesters will be limited to a daily total of ten shellfish of species not subject to other regulations. (This rule does not apply, for example, to clams, oysters, Dungeness crab and red rock crab that have previously established limits.) Harvesters can take any combination of shore crabs, limpets, sea stars, white sea cucumbers, graceful crab and other previously unregulated species on coastal or Puget Sound beaches so long as the total number does not exceed ten per day. Empty shells do not count.
There are two exceptions to this general rule. There will be a new limit of five moon snails per day, which will not count toward the ten-per-day limit for other species. There will also be a new limit of two sea slugs (nudibranchs) per day, which can be taken in addition to the ten-per-day limit for other species.
License rules remain the same, with a shellfish-seaweed license required for harvest of species such as Dungeness crab, clams and oysters.
Mills said department staff are spreading the word about the new limits among communities that regularly harvest previously unregulated shellfish and marine fish.
"We don't want the new regulations to come as a surprise," Mills said. "Our goal is to make sure people understand these changes so these species will be available in Washington for their children and their children's children."