Shellfish, marine fish, and forage fish rule simplification

The public comment period for these rule proposals is now closed.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife began simplifying fishing rules in 2017, implementing a public process meant reduce complexity and increase understanding of sport fishing regulations.

  • Year 1 (2017): Simplify sport fishing regulations for freshwater species (steelhead, trout, warmwater fish, sturgeon, shad and carp).  Finalized rules became effective July 1, 2018. 
  • Year 2 (2018):  Simplify sport fishing regulations for salmon fisheries in marine and freshwaters.  Rules effective July 1, 2019. 
  • Year 3 (2019):  Simplify sport fishing regulations for marine fish and shellfish in Washington coastal and Puget Sound waters.  These rules are expected to be effective July 1, 2020.

The department will also consider regulations that address critical conservation needs on an annual basis.  

To comment on a proposal, simply find a proposal in the lists below and select "Submit comment." For more information, see the notice of proposed rule making.

Shellfish rule simplification proposals

Proposal No. 1: Daily limits for green urchins, purple urchins, red urchins, pink scallops, spiny scallops, and sea cucumbers

Short Description: This rule proposal streamlines daily limits for all urchins as uniformly 18 urchins, 18 sea cucumbers, and from a weight-based daily limit (10 lbs.) to a quantity-based limit of 40 for pink scallops and spiny scallops.

Explanation: Currently management of urchins uses two different daily limits (18 for red urchins and purple urchins and 36 for green urchins). This proposal reduces the daily limit of green sea urchins from 36 to 18 to align with other species. It reduces the daily limit of sea cucumbers from 25 to 18 for simplicity. For pink scallops and spiny scallops, the Department is proposing a quantity-based daily limit in lieu of a weight-based daily limit. Quantity based limits are easier for harvesters to comply with in the field. Weight-based daily limits require that animals are first taken to the surface and weighed, presenting enforcement and logistical challenges. A total of 40 aligns with existing daily limits for clams for simplicity. Instituting streamlined daily limits is a simplification and the proposed limits align with conservation objectives.

Proposal No. 2: Define size limits for pink scallops, spiny scallops, and urchins

Short Description: This rule proposal would make it unlawful to possess or take green urchins, purple urchins, red urchins, pink scallops, or spiny scallops below a minimum size limit for conservation purposes.

Explanation: Currently, minimum size limits for green urchins, purple urchins, red urchins, pink scallops, and spiny scallops are undefined for recreational fisheries. Proposed minimum size limits (and a maximum size limit for red urchins) will preserve opportunity for the affected species to reproduce prior to harvest-- a conservation measure currently instituted by both state and tribal commercial fisheries. Proposed minimum size limits are: 3 1/4 inches (red urchins), 2 1/4 inches (green urchins, purple urchins), and 2 inches (pink scallops, spiny scallops). A maximum size limit of 5 inches is proposed for red urchins to conserve the largest reproductive animals.

Proposal No. 3: Define closure areas for sea cucumbers and urchins recreational fisheries

Short Description: This proposal would make it unlawful to fish for sea cucumbers and sea urchins in 8 conservation closure areas throughout Puget Sound.

Explanation: These closure areas serve as reference areas supporting monitoring of population status, and as conservation measures to protect spawning stock distributed throughout Puget Sound. This conservation proposal permits the long term sustainable management of sea cucumber and sea urchin fisheries and aligns with co-management of urchin and sea cucumber in Puget Sound.

Proposal No. 4: Eliminate requirement to retain eastern softshell clams

Short description: This proposal eliminates the requirement to retain eastern softshell clams dug as bycatch.

Explanation: Eastern softshell clams are sometimes encountered by harvesters as bycatch when targeting other clam species. Take of this species is managed as part of existing aggregate daily limit. The current rule requires that eastern softshell clams be retained when encountered as bycatch. This species is a non-native species not often targeted by harvesters. The Department proposes to strike this requirement as a simplification; there is no conservation need for this rule.

Proposal No. 5: Clarify lawful gear for intertidal harvest of geoduck

Short Description: This proposal clarifies that the use of a cylindrical can or tube is lawful gear for the harvest of geoduck and describes a lawful maximum diameter.

Explanation: The harvest of intertidal geoduck is commonly conducted with the assistance of a tube or cylinder to temporarily prevent clam-digging holes from caving in. There is not currently a conservation concern with this practice as long as holes are filled in after use. This rule seeks to clarify that this is a lawful gear type, to define the gear, and to define a maximum permissible diameter for tubes or cylinders as 24 inches.

Proposal No. 6: Define a caliper measurement

Short Description: Clarifies regulations regarding the definition of a caliper measurement as a linear measurement when both points of a movable caliper are touching the shell of the shellfish.  A fixed caliper gauge is the linear distance between points of the caliper gauge or the diameter of a circular gauge.

Explanation: Currently the definition of a caliper measurement, originally referred to in 220-330-050 and in the proposed consolidated 220-330-010, is undefined.

Proposal No. 7: Define lawful pot escapement component fibers

Short description: This rule proposal clarifies regulations regarding the definition of lawful fibers which can be used in attaching pot escapement components to shellfish pots.

Explanation: Currently, WAC 220-330-020 describes lawful attachment of pot lid or pot side serving as pot lid as consisting of “…100 percent cotton or other natural fiber twine…” This clarification seeks to define other acceptable fiber types for attachment of escapement component to pots as hemp, jute, or sisal (in addition to 100% cotton) twine. Research conducted by the Northwest Straits Initiative and WDFW has indicated that these “other” fiber types exhibit degradation time similar to 100% cotton twine, sufficient to allow for expedient de-activation of derelict pot gear (Redekopp et al. 2006).

Proposal No. 8: Technical changes

Short description: Proposals correct Washington Administrative Code language to reflect rule adoptions made by the Commission (technical changes). Formats and streamlines the language, removes redundant language, reorganizes chapter to improve structure.

Explanation: This proposal is a technical fix to streamline the information by reducing redundant language in multiple WACs. See Proposals Table.

Number

Issue

Details

1

Eliminate redundant language

Eliminate redundant language in WAC 220-330 individual section titles.

2

Re-organize WAC 220-330-010

Consolidate all shellfish daily limits, size restrictions, and non-gear-related unlawful acts provisions to WAC 220-330-010. Rename section Shellfish—Daily limits, size restrictions, and unlawful acts. Delete redundant language. Alphabetize section by taxa. Identify each relevant WDFW Marine Area for clarification. Update formatting for consistency. Preserve all relevant RCW references.

3

Shellfish daily limits--consolidate

Consolidate all shellfish daily limits into WAC 220-330-010, including from 220-330-180 and 220-320-060 (5) (relic shells). Add clarifying language in several subsections.

4

Shellfish minimum size limits—consolidate and clarify.

Consolidate all shellfish minimum size limits into re-organized 220-330-010, including from 220-330-050. Clarify that there is no minimum size for all relevant species. Add clarifying language in several subsections.

5

Shellfish unlawful acts—consolidate.

Consolidate all non-gear-related unlawful acts into re-organized 220-330-010, including from 220-330-050, -080, -090, -120, and -180. Add clarifying language in in several subsections.

6

Add relevant WAC cross-reference for crawfish

Add a cross-reference to existing rules (Chapter 220-640 WAC) regarding take and possession of non-native (invasive) crawfish species, which is applicable to personal use fisheries.

7

Re-organize WAC 220-330-020

Consolidate all personal pot fishery shellfish gear and gear-related unlawful act provisions to WAC 220-330-020, including from 220-330-030, -060, and -100. Rename section Crab, shrimp, crawfish—Gear and gear-related unlawful acts.  Re-write general pot rules for simplicity and add clarifying language in several subsections. Eliminate redundant language. Re-organize by fishery. Preserve all relevant RCW references.

8

Re-organize WAC 220-330-090

Consolidate areas and seasons for crawfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, goose barnacles, scallops, squid, and octopus into one WAC. Rename section Crawfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, goose barnacles, scallops, squid, octopus—Areas and seasons.  Add language to clarify existing areas and seasons.

9

Re-organize WAC 220-330-120

Consolidate all non-pot fishery gear and gear-related unlawful acts for clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, squid, and octopus, including from WAC 220-330-090, -120, -130, and -180. Re-organize by fishery. Add clarifying language in several subsections. Preserve all relevant RCW references.

10

Add coordinates

Add coordinates to geographical references in WACs 220-330-040, 220-330-090, 220-330-100, 220-330-140. Correct one incorrect coordinate in 220-330-180 (c) (v). Make all coordinate formatting consistent throughout WAC chapter. Clarifying language is also proposed for several geographical references in the chapter.

11

Updating language referencing exemption

Updating WAC references describing exemption in WAC 220-330-150 to reflect the consolidation and re-organization being proposed for this chapter and reference the correct WACs.

12

Clarifying language pertaining to possession of cleaned crab in the field

WAC 220-320-060: Editing language to clarify that it is lawful to clean crab in the field, as long as the back shell is retained. Existing language prohibits cleaning of crab in the field.

13

Remove redundant reference to Hood Canal shrimp gear salvage permit

WAC 220-330-100: Language is outdated. Gear salvage program is outlined in RCW 77.12.870.

14

Correct RCW references and violation clauses

Correct several incorrect RCW references and violation clauses, including in WAC 220-330-040, -100, -110, -120- and 130.  

15

Eliminate now redundant sections

Repeal WAC sections that are now redundant after consolidation, including 220-330-030, -050, -060, -080, -100, -130, -180.

Marine fish rule simplification proposals

Proposal No. 1: Changes to bottomfish regulations in Marine Area 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line)

Short Description: This rule proposal would align recreational bottomfish regulations in Marine Area 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line, also referred to as Marine Area 4B), with recreational bottomfish regulations in Marine Area 4 (west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line). 

Changes to WAC 220-314-020, which describes possession limits for bottomfish, includes: reducing the aggregate daily bottomfish limit from 10 to nine, increasing the rockfish sublimit from six to seven per day, allowing 12 surfperch per day, and removing the cabezon size limit.  Species allowed within the rockfish sublimit would include yellowtail rockfish and widow rockfish in addition to the current allowance for black rockfish and blue/deacon rockfish. 

Changes to WAC 220-314-030 would allow anglers to retain yellowtail rockfish and widow rockfish seaward of a line approximating 20 fathoms on days open to recreational salmon fishing in July and August. 

Changes to WAC 220-314-040 would open the lingcod fishery from the second Saturday in March through the Second Saturday in October in Marine Area 4B, which is the same as the lingcod season in Marine Area 4, and clarifies that Marine Area 12 is closed to lingcod fishing year-round.

Throughout these WAC’s, additional technical changes have been made to refer to management areas as Marine Area rather than Catch Record Card Area, and replace blue rockfish with blue/deacon rockfish. 

Explanation: These proposed changes would simplify regulations in two management areas that are adjacent to one another and commonly fished during a single trip. Revising the regulations for Marine Area 4B so they are more similar to Marine Area 4 makes it easier for recreational anglers to understand the rules. Stock assessments conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service and adopted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council for federally managed areas west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line (Marine Area 4) include catch and biological data from species in the area east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line (Marine Area 4B). These regulatory proposals provide anglers with additional access to healthy bottomfish resources without substantially increased risk of over harvest.

Proposal No. 2: Technical changes

Short Description: Corrects Washington Administrative Code language to reflect rule adoptions made by the Commission (technical changes). Formats the language in a clear structure, removes redundant language, etc.

Explanation: This proposal is a technical fix to provide clearer language reflective of Commission intent, and to streamline the information by reducing redundant presentation of the language in multiple WACs.

Number

Issue

Details

1

Definition of “bottomfish”

Reorganized language in WAC 220-300-040 so that the list refers first to individual species that tend to be preferred fishery targets and then to “all other species” of several taxonomic groups.

2

Updating food fish names

Updated names used in WAC 220-300-370 so that broad group names are used (e.g., Flatfishes) in place of more specific, word labels (e.g., Flounder, sole, and halibut). Reorganized the list to merge all categories with a single species into the shared category titled “Other.” Corrected spelling and use of several names.

3

Eliminate unused geographic definitions

Eliminated WAC 220-300-300 and -310 entirely because they are not referred to anywhere in WAC or RCW. These WACs created two geographic marine regions in Washington in 1954, but new areas were subsequently created. The old areas have not been used since at least 1982.

Forage fish rule simplification proposals

Proposal No. 1: Technical changes

Short Description: Corrects Washington Administrative Code language to reflect rules adopted by the Commission (technical changes). Formats the language structure and removes redundant language.

Explanation: This proposal is a technical fix to provide simplified language reflective of Commission intent, and to streamline the information by reducing redundant language in multiple WACs. See Table.

Number

Issue

Details

1

Organization of WAC

Move some elements within WAC’s and eliminated redundant sections. 

2

Lack of freshwater forage fish limit

Define the freshwater limit for forage fish stated in WAC to align the Puget Sound and Coastal limit.

3

Simplify language

Simplify WAC 220-315-030 (3) (a) language.