OLYMPIA– Concerns over declines in yelloweye rockfish numbers have prompted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to place new limits on the numbers of fish that can be landed in coastal ports or Puget Sound.
The new restrictions, which take effect today (May 1), make it unlawful for sport fishers to land with yelloweye rockfish in excess of the bag limit in the port of landing, regardless of where the fish were caught.
The yelloweye rockfish bag limit is one in Marine Areas 5 through 13 (from Sekiu south throughout Puget Sound). No yelloweye rockfish may be harvested or landed in Washington's coastal port areas of Neah Bay, LaPush, Westport and Ilwaco.
The new regulations are part of an overall effort to reduce harvest of yelloweye rockfish harvest, both intentional and as by-catch.
Yelloweye rockfish are in serious decline, particularly in the state's inside waters. The species has been declared over-fished by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
In an effort to rebuild the population, a recreational harvest limit of three metric tons annually has been set. Fisheries managers estimate that limit is reached just in the number of rockfish that die after being unintentionally harvested and discarded.
The new port-of-landing bag limit regulation is intended to discourage anglers from venturing to nearby waters to harvest rockfish under higher bag limits.
"It is important for anglers to be aware of the need to avoid yelloweye rockfish," said Barker. "Not only is that species in trouble, but harvest opportunities for other marine fish stocks such as halibut could be impacted if the we don't do a better job at reducing rockfish catch."