Better Crab Allocations For Sports Coming To Sound

Out with the quota, in with a set season for sport crabbers in Puget Sound.

In the first update to the state’s crabbing policy since 2000, last weekend’s decision by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission is expected to boost the amount of Dungies recreational anglers harvest by up to 40 percent.

Commercial crabbers were displeased, but Tony Floor, fishing affairs director for the Northwest Marine Trade Association, said “it’s nice to see the economic contribution and the value of sports fishing have been recognized” in an article by Jeffrey Mayor of the Tacoma News Tribune and picked up by the Bellingham Herald.

PUGET SOUND CRABBERS SMILED WITH THE CHANGE IN WDFW'S DUNGENESS POLICY. (TIM BUSH)

The change, once adopted, will allow recreational harvesters to crab five days a week — including weekends — from July through Labor Day, with a five-crab daily limit. A winter season would run seven days a week from October through December.

As with this summer, in past years the summer season has been four days a week, including Saturday but not Sunday. Season closes for a catch assessment and, if enough are remaining in the quota, fishing is reopened in fall.

WDFW projects we’ll bump our take up to 1.8 million Dungies a year, up from the 1.2 million fished up on average between 2005 and 2009.

“This has been coming for a long time,” FWC chairwoman Miranda Wecker said in a press release. “The number of sport crabbers has grown dramatically in recent years, and Puget Sound is – by far – the most popular place to fish.”

Around 60,000 more crabbers are dropping their pots in the Sound these days versus just five years ago, a 37 percent jump.

The State Auditor’s Office, in a report issued earlier this year, found that the state’s policy for allocating the harvest would not accommodate the continued growth in the number of Puget Sound sport crabbers.

Figures from Mayor’s article suggest that the catch out of Tacoma will nearly double, growing by 40,000 pounds, while another 20,000 pounds may be added in Hood Canal.

Commercial fishers, who currently account for approximately 67 percent of the crab caught by non-tribal fishers, could see their share drop to 55 percent under the new policy, said Rich Childers, WDFW’s crab manager for Puget Sound.

Tribal fisheries are not affected by the new policy, although all Dungeness crab fisheries in Puget Sound are managed under a single quota that reflects shared conservation goals.

Crab-catch reporting by sport anglers has been problematic in recent years, but in approving the new policy, commissioners emphasized the importance of vigilant enforcement strategies, public information and annual reporting by WDFW to ensure that it meets its statutory obligation to conduct “orderly fisheries.”

Mayor reports “Floor said the sport fishing industry is ready to assist the state in helping recreational anglers comply with crabbing laws.”

WDFW will ask the Legislature to increase the annual crab endorsement fee from $3 to $7.50. For temporary licenses, the endorsement would increase from $1 to $3.

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