OLYMPIA - Two recreational shrimp fishers face stiff monetary fines and possibly jail time after being caught April 1 with more than 1,000 spot shrimp harvested near Edmonds.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) enforcement officers caught the two men loading the last of an estimated 1,050 shrimp into a cooler. The excessive harvest occurred on the first day of a new, week-long, early recreational shrimp fishery confined to a small portion of Puget Sound in the Edmonds area. There is a daily limit of 80 spot shrimp per person.
WDFW Enforcement Sergeant Randy Lambert said the agency had a high-profile presence on the water during the opening day of the fishery, and enforcement officers were also doing random checks of shrimpers as they came off the water at boat launch parking lots.
"One of our officers noticed the two men coming up the gangway from their boat with a cooler, and watched them open the back of a van containing a much larger cooler," Lambert said. "That's when the officer saw that the two had a sizeable amount of shrimp that was well in excess of a daily limit for two fishers."
The two men face charges of first degree unlawful recreational fishing, which is a gross misdemeanor and carries penalties of up to one year in jail and a maximum financial penalty of $5,000.
The poaching incident will reduce the amount of shrimp available to legitimate recreational shrimpers when the general shrimp fishery opens throughout Puget Sound April 20, said WDFW Shellfish Biologist Mark O'Toole.
"The bottom line is that these poachers took more than 1,000 shrimp away from legitimate recreational harvesters," he said.
O'Toole said the recreational shrimping season has been shortened in recent years through increased fishing pressure.
"More and more people are sport shrimping each year," he said. "In fact, the number of people going shrimping in Puget Sound outside of Hood Canal is almost doubling from one year to the next."
The special area shrimp fishery closes Sunday, April 7, at 7 p.m. In addition to a daily limit of 80 spot shrimp, no more than four shrimp pots can be carried on board a boat.
The illegally harvested shrimp were donated to the Union Gospel Mission in Seattle to help feed the homeless.