Crabbing reopens in Whidbey waters

"The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife will reopen recreational and commercial crab fishing in the waters around Oak Harbor from Dec. 9 at 8 a.m. until Dec. 31 at 4 p.m. That includes Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2.Crab fishing in Marine Area 7 - north of Anacortes and throughout the San Juans - will remain closed. The reopening is a result of the fact that tribal harvesting has exceeded the 50-50 state/tribal allocation. The reopening applies to all methods of harvesting crab including pots, wading, ring nets and diving. The season has been closed early the last two seasons but never reopened again before spring. Last year, the earliest time since the 1995 Federal court ruling of the state ribal allocation, the season was closed Dec. 31. When the harvesting closes again at the end of December it 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. The molting closures usually end around May or April The Department of Fish and Wildlife closed the crab fishing season last month because the commercial and recreational amounts exceeded the tribal catch. Area 7 was closed even earlier.Tribes and the Department of Fish and Wildlife meet once a week to discuss the problems and to try to create a better management plan. One solution to the problem would be switching the season from a calendar-driven catch as much as you can style to a quota system where there is a limit to how much everyone can catch. The objections to a quota system 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.--------You can reach sports editor Matt Phelps at or call 675-6611. "

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