OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today released a new management plan designed to protect and restore rockfish populations in Puget Sound.
The Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation plan includes policies, strategies and actions designed to help restore and maintain abundance, distribution, diversity and long-term productivity of rockfish populations in Puget Sound.
Developed with input from an ad-hoc advisory group, the new plan includes suggestions made during an extensive public review process in 2009-10 that included 1,100 public comments received by the department.
The plan builds on WDFW’s efforts to protect rockfish in Puget Sound, where three species – bocaccio, yelloweye and canary rockfish – were listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2010.
Key provisions of the new plan include:
- Managing fisheries in Puget Sound to ensure the health and productivity of all rockfish species.
- Utilizing science-based marine conservation areas that, with other actions, aid in natural production of rockfish populations and their habitats.
- Working with the Northwest Straits Commission, tribes, fishers and others to improve the system for reporting and removing lost fishing gear from Puget Sound.
- Promoting the restoration of depleted stocks to sustainable levels through the appropriate use of hatchery programs and artificial habitats.
Since 2004, WDFW has required anglers to release any canary or yelloweye rockfish they encounter in Puget Sound. Last year, WDFW also adopted regulations restricting the depth anglers can fish for bottomfish and prohibiting the retention of rockfish in most areas of the Sound.
In addition, WDFW has closed commercial fisheries that target rockfish in Puget Sound, as well as several other commercial fisheries that would likely catch rockfish while fishing for other species.
But harvest restrictions, alone, are not enough to rebuild these important, slow-growing and highly vulnerable rockfish populations, said Phil Anderson, director of WDFW.
“This new plan will not only guide our management of fisheries in Puget Sound but also our efforts in other areas such as removing derelict gear, monitoring, habitat protection and education,” Anderson said.
The plan is available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/rockfish/.