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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

May 13, 2011 at 5:32 PM

More liberal Dungeness crab sport seasons looming after judge rejects commercial crabbers restraining order

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Tony Floor, Director of Fishing Affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association in Seattle attended a hearing today on a challenge brought up by the Puget Sound Commercial Crab Association.

“Good news, we won, on all challenges,” said Floor.

Here is Floor’s report:

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee rejected the Puget Sound Commercial Crab Association’s request for a temporary restraining order that would have reverted our more conservative season regulations to 2010 late this afternoon (May 13).

Judge McPhee rejected the Association’s challenge that the Fish and Wildlife Commission acted in a capricious and arbitrary manner in setting the new Puget Sound crab allocation ratios last October.

The judge rejected the challenge by legal counsel representing the commercials, that the sport fishing industry is not an industry, and went further to recognize our industry.

The judge also noted that the sport fishery only takes less than 10-percent of the total non-Indian (ocean and Puget Sound) crab catch and this new allocation will not be disruptive to distribution of crab in the market place.

Judge McPhee noted, as offered by the state, that 60-percent of the non-Indian commercial crab fishery catch in Puget Sound is shipped out of the state.

Floor says, now, it will be interesting to see if the commercial crab industry elects or dismisses their consideration for a full blown lawsuit, based on today’s decision.

The state Fish and Wildlife Commission approved management changes that would increase the yearly sport catch by as much as 45 percent of the nontribal share.

In the past, the sport crab fishery was allowed to catch about one-third of the nontribal share, with the rest going to the commercial sector.

Each year the state conducts test fisheries to determine how strong the crab population is, then determines the seasons and what each user group can catch.

Sport crabbers will be allowed to catch Dungeness crab Thursdays through Mondays only, from July 1 through Sept 5 in Marine Areas 4 (east of Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5, 6, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13, with a five-crab daily limit. A winter season will be open daily from October through December, which is a very big deal to the sport crab fishing industry.

Marine Area 7 South will be open Thursdays through Mondays only, from July 15 through Sept. 30. Marine Area 7 North will be open Thursdays through Mondays only, from Aug. 15 through Sept. 30.

Anglers should check the regulation pamphlet for more details and specifics.

According to state Fish and Wildlife, approximately 235,000 people purchased license endorsements to fish for Dungeness crab in Puget Sound last year. Five years ago, 160,000 people were licensed for Puget Sound crab.

(Photo is courtesy of The Seattle Times archives)

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