Strategies for slowing the pace of the recreational crab catch in Puget Sound will be one of several topics discussed at a public meeting of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission scheduled March 4-5 in Olympia.
In preparation for the 2005 crab season, shellfish managers for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will brief the commission on recent trends in the fishery and discuss possible options for keeping the recreational catch within prescribed harvest guidelines.
Those options could include such measures as reduced bag limits, delayed openings and fewer fishing days per week, said Commission Chair Ron Ozment, noting that the commission will not take any actions affecting the upcoming season until May.
“Based on recent years’ catch data, it’s clear that we’ll need to make some changes in the fishery if we want to keep the recreational catch in line with current guidelines,” Ozment said. “The purpose of this meeting is to examine what those options might be.”
The briefing on Puget Sound crab management will take place at 9:30 a.m. March 5 in room 172 of the Natural Resource Building, 1111 Washington St. S.E., Olympia.
WDFW staff will also brief the commission during the two-day meeting on a variety of other topics, including wolf-management policies, mining rules and the department’s hunter education program. The complete agenda for the meeting is available on the commission’s website.
Members of the public who wish to comment on these or other issues can do so during comment periods at the beginning and end of each day of the meeting. Comments can also be sent to the Commission via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), fax (360-902-2448), or regular mail at 600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091.
Those interested in commenting on Puget Sound crab-management strategies can also do so at a special commission meeting, dedicated exclusively to that subject, on May 14, starting at 9 a.m. at the Tyee Center, 5757 Littlerock Road, S.E., Tumwater. Anyone wishing to testify before the commission must sign up by 11 a.m. that day.
Ozment said consideration of new crab-management strategies is a direct result of the sport fishery’s growing popularity in recent years. According to WDFW harvest data, the recreational crab catch in Puget Sound has doubled in less than a decade, prompting shellfish managers to close fishing seasons weeks ahead of schedule in several areas.
Even so, the recreational catch has cut into the share of the harvest reserved for commercial and tribal fisheries in each of the past four seasons, said Morris Barker, WDFW marine resource manager.
“In some areas of Puget Sound, there’s so much gear on the water that we can’t shut the fishery down fast enough to keep the recreational harvest within its harvest guidelines,” Barker said. “We need some way to slow the sport fishery down if the goal is to stay within the harvest guidelines established by the commission.”
That is true for virtually all fishing areas in Puget Sound, except for southern Puget Sound and the western Strait of Juan de Fuca, he said.
“We plan to recommend a variety of options to the commission for keeping the recreational fishery within its harvest guidelines,” Barker said. “The situation varies from one area of Puget Sound to another, so we’re not looking for a ‘one-size-fits-all’ management solution.”