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
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.