Sports

Crab fishery to close

"The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife will close recreational and commercial crab fishing in the waters around Oak Harbor on Friday at 4 p.m. That includes Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2 (south of Anacortes). Crab fishing in Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) closed yesterday. Both closures are a result of the fact that recreational and commercial harvesting has exceeded the 50/50 state/tribal allocation. The closure applies to all methods of harvesting crab including pots, wading, ring nets and diving. Last year and the year before last we had to close early, said Norm Lemberg, spokesman for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife's district office in La Conner. Neither time did the closure come so early. Last year, the earliest time since the 1995 Federal court ruling of the state ribal allocation, the season was closed Dec. 31. Typically in Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2 they have not had to close, said Lemberg. The closure will end all crab harvesting for the winter and the usual closure of the season for soft-shell molting will also take place. Soft-shell molting closures, which usually close the season in mid winter until early spring, take place every year.Now, coupled with the allocation closure, crab harvesting could be shut down until June.I would anticipate that the molting closure will close it until May or April, said Lemberg. On a monthly basis we compare our numbers with the tribal numbers, said Lemberg. Right now we are about 6,000 pounds ahead of the tribes. We have to go into conservation mode.The Department of Fish and Wildlife closes the crab fishing season because the commercial and recreational amounts exceed what the tribal catch is for that year. Area 7 was closed earlier than the other two areas because of the abundance of commercial fishing that takes place there. We don't want the commercial gear in area 7 to over-saturate 8-1 and 8-1, said Lemberg. Lemberg adds that the tribes and the W.S.D.F.W are now meeting once a week to discuss the problems and to try to create a better management plan. We have some unknowns out there that we are trying to address, said Lemberg about the meetings.One solution to the problem would be switching the season from derby, catch as much as you can, to a beginning of season quota system where there is a limit to how much everyone can catch. It makes a heck of a lot more sense, said Lemberg. There is always resistance to change but this landscape is changing dramatically.The objections to a quota plan are that under the plan, if there is more of an abundance of crab than the quota calls for then the crab harvesters lose out on the additional catch. The quota idea comes from the harvesting of shrimp, which are governed by a quota system. "

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