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February 06, 1998
Contact: Jeff Weathersby, (360) 902-2256

Non-Indian Dungeness crab fishing remains open under tribal agreement

OLYMPIA -- Three northern Puget Sound bays normally reserved for recreational crabbing have opened to Indian commercial Dungeness crab harvesting, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today.

The three bays, Birch, Fidalgo and the outer portion of Samish, also remain open to recreational crabbing.

An agreement with tribes also requires the closure of non-Indian commercial crab fishing in the northern Puget Sound, except for the San Juans and Padilla Bay, on Feb. 16. The agreement does not change non-Indian recreational crabbing regulations in northern Puget Sound.

A 1995 federal court shellfish order requires the state and tribes to develop cooperative Dungeness crab management plans which provide each side with the opportunity to harvest 50 percent of the annual harvestable surplus. The opening of the recreational zones to Indian crabbers and restrictions on the non-Indian commercial fishers respond to a 400,000-pound harvest imbalance favoring non-Indians for this crab season.

Bruce Crawford, who heads WDFW's Fish Management Program, said a strict interpretation of the state-tribal management plans would require a complete closure for non-Indian commercial and recreational crab fishing in northern Puget Sound. The compromise agreement with the tribes provides continued crabbing opportunities to non-Indian commercial and recreational fishers for the remainder of this year's crab season. The season is scheduled to end May 31.