OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will hold a public meeting March 28 in Silverdale to review last year's Hood Canal crab fishery and discuss possible changes for this year.
The meeting is scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. March 28 at Central Kitsap High School.
Four additional public meetings are planned in April to work out specific management strategies for this year's crab and shrimp fisheries in Hood Canal.
WDFW Director Jeff Koenings said the March 28 meeting will focus on management decisions made during last year's crab fishery and will give the public an opportunity to share their thoughts with fishery managers about the 2000 season.
"People caught a lot of crab very quickly last year, which led to an early closure," Koenings said. "I know that closure wasn't very popular and we want to enlist the public in helping us to develop fishing strategies that work for them and for the long-term health of the resource."
Koenings said he plans to attend the meeting himself along with members of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission who serve on the Commission's Fisheries Committee.
Jay Odell, WDFW crab policy advisor, said last year's season was indicative of the rapid growth in the "catching power" of both recreational and tribal fishers in recent years on Hood Canal. Estimated landings during the past five seasons were twice as high as those during the previous 15 years, he said, and none were higher than last year's catch.
Before the season began, the state and the tribes agreed to quotas of 250,000 pounds each for the recreational and the tribal fisheries. However, by the end of October, recreational crabbers had exceeded their quota by an estimated 95,000 pounds and their fishery was closed for the season.
"A number of crabbers have told me that they would rather fish fewer days per week than have the fishery close down early," Odell said. "That's an idea we want to discuss with the folks who come to the meetings."
Those who miss the 2000 crab season review on March 28 can still participate and share their ideas about this year's crab and shrimp fisheries at meetings scheduled in the following locations:
- Shoreline: April 18, 7-9 p.m., at Shoreline Community College, Room 1515
- Silverdale: April 19, 7-9 p.m., in the Central Kitsap High School Auditorium
- Chimicum: April 23, 7-9 p.m., in the Chimicum High School Auditorium
- Shelton: April 24, 7-9 p.m., in the Shelton High School Auditorium
Additional public meetings on next year's crab and shrimp fisheries in other areas of Puget Sound will be announced in the next few weeks, Odell said. For information about those meetings and other shellfish issues, check WDFW's website on the Internet.
"Crab populations in Puget Sound and Hood Canal are still relatively healthy – and I think everyone wants to help keep them that way," Odell said. "These meetings are designed to give people a chance to participate in management decisions about their fisheries and the future of the resource."