Will NOAA End All Fishing In Puget Sound To Save Endangered Rockfish?

Here’s an e-mail I received tonight, regarding the potential TOTAL CLOSURE of Puget Sound to any sport fishing. This is very serious, so please read this and comment to NOAA before we lose ALL sport fishing in Puget Sound.

Hello Everyone,

The purpose of this email is to make sure that everyone is paying attention to potential federal action concerning ESA listed rock fish that may have huge impacts on Puget Sound salmon fisheries.

These are the facts as I understand them, so please correct me if anyone has different information.

In about three weeks, NOAA is going to come out with an opinion on implementations to protect ESA listed rock fish. NOAA has already identified what it considers to be critical rock fish habitat.

NOAA Rockfish Protection Area

NOAA Rockfish Protection Area

The link below should take you to the critical habitat map for rock fish in Puget Sound.  You’ll see that MA 7-10 and the eastern part of 6 are pretty well high-lighted.  The map pretty well covers the proposed closure of MA 7-10.

Critical Habitat for Puget Sound/Georgia Basin Rockfish :: NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region

From what I understand, NOAA is suggesting that up to 30% of the critical habitat be set aside as no fishing zones. This means no fishing of any kind including salmon fishing, halibut fishing, crabbing or shrimping. Almost all near shore areas in Puget Sound as well as banks like Posession Bar are identified as critical habitat, but what 30% do you think they will home in on? These areas cover the most productive, traditional, and time honored salmon fishing areas. If these areas are closed I do not believe we will see them reopen within our lifetimes. I think this is the most important salmon management issue that we have faced in many years, yet it is not being adequately addressed by the Department in the NOF process or by the Advosory Group. We are discussing priorities about small closures of Shilshole Bay or Northern outer Hood Canal while ignoring a possible 30% closure in all areas.  How accurate will a fram model be if fishermen, both sport and commercial, can not fish where the fish are caught? How do you model that?

NOAA is still taking comment and input prior to it’s opinion. There will be an opportunity for public comment after NOAA has released it’s opinion. It may be much easier to have some effect on the opinion prior to it’s release. No take groups that want closures are putting pressure on NOAA and NOAA needs to hear alternative perspectives.

Questionable science and policy are being considered in the formulation of the opinion. A few are provided below, please respond if you have others.

1) According to WDFW rock fish manager NOAA determined that Puget Sound rock fish were a separate species from ocean varieties when it added three species to the ESA list. NOAA is currently collecting DNA from hook and line caught rock fish for DNA sampling to determine IF they are indeed a separate species from ocean varieties. I am taking part in this data collection. Why form opinions and take drastic action without having the facts?

2)  Not enough time has been given for the recent  very significant regulations already in place to take effect. Rock fish are a very slow growing species not reaching sexual maturity until age 8 and not being really good spawners until about 12 years old. Rock fish are a long lived species that can go years and years, even decades between successful spawns.This fact is leading to the possibility that successful rock fish spawns may be the most important factor in recovery.

3) The 120′ rule that is already in place protects far more habitat than the proposed 30%. It should be given a chance to work.

4) NOAA does not have all the current data it needs and is building with a mix of old data and Canadian data in formulating their opinion. If relying on Canadian data, it is important to note that in recent surveys of Canadian areas that were closed to all fishing due to rock fish protection NO change was observed in populations of concern. Why should entire closures be considered if closures have not been proven to be a success?

5) Recent examples have shown that rock fish that were released using descending devices have had a very high survival rate at depths that exceed rock fish by-catch encountered while salmon fishing.

6) Ongoing studies are showing that successful lingcod fisheries can be conducted with minimal rock fish encounters.

The next NOAA meeting for this topic is March 30.

We need to discuss this asap and we need to have our opinions heard.


Steve Kesling

About John L. Beath

John Beath is a writer, photographer, videographer, blogger, tackle manufacturer & Captain at Whaler's Cove Lodge in Southeast Alaska. He is also owner of www.halibut.net and host at Lets Talk Outdoors @ www.youtube.com/jbeath
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1 Response to Will NOAA End All Fishing In Puget Sound To Save Endangered Rockfish?

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