Everyone that has listened to the show regularly already knows that I have been working on a committee to advocate for the groundfish in Puget Sound by providing improved habitat and perhaps even hatchery supplementation. Since moving to the northwest in 2000 I have been amazed at the stories I've heard about all of the cod and rockfish that were caught while people were fishing for salmon or some other species. To return the Puget sound to those "good ol days" would be the best gift we as sporties could give to our kid's and grandkid's.
The causes for the decline are many, not the least of which are pollution, and habitat loss. The state however has their own favorite, over harvest by RECREATIONAL fisherman. The state lays the blame squarely on the shoulders of recreational fisherman. On page 27, table 8 shows the likely stressors for rockfish. I guess this is their own opinion, but it struck me as funny when they listed past fishery removals as high priorities but water quality as a moderate or low priority issue!
Have they not heard of the fish kills in Hood Canal?
Have they not heard of the sewage runoff after a flood in Seattle?
Why is the governor putting so much time, money, and energy in to cleaning up Puget Sound if water quality is such a minor issue???
I do agree that PAST, not current, removals are part of the problem now. That is why I don't belive that slowly growing fish such as rockfish can sustain a commercial fishery, like the ones we had from the 20's to the 80's, in an area like Puget Sound.
The answers that the state has provided for us is a series of MPA's (Marine Protected Areas – closed to all fishing) and the promise to look in to hatchery production and artificial habitat enhancement, and to ELIMINATE harvest! The first proposal that the committee came up with is the ALASKA WAY VIADUCT. The proposal is to use the clean concrete and/or material provided to us by South Seattle Communtity College to build 12 reefs in Puget Sound for scientific research and study. The goal to build and study these reefs in Puget Sound would not only provide us with research, education, and conservation but would also provide us with recreational opportunities such as fishing and diving someday. This would not only provide an economic boost to the local economy but also improve the quality of life for local residents.
In the past, WDFW argued that artificial habitat quality, function, and replacement of underlying natural habitat cast doubt for it's use as replacement habitat. I on the other hand point to studies by Dr. Milton Love, as well as many others, that show artificial habitats, -done correctly- provide habitat that is better than, or equal to natural habitat. These studies also show that these platforms act as nursery grounds for rockfish. Other studies by the University of Florida point out the economic and social value these artificial habitats bring. Many can even be designed in a way that will take pressure off of natural reefs. The proposal that we are putting forward will answer these questions, as well as many others, once and for all.
Recently, the WDFW came out with a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan. The immediate issue that I have is that this document was supposed to be out in April but didn't come out until October 19th and we were given only 30 days to read, research, and comment on it. Even though the document gives us a glimmer of hope, many aspects of the plan are, in my opinion, down right scary. On page 65, strategy #1, endorses the idea of using MPA's (Marine Protected Areas) to restrict or even prohibit fishing. There is no stated goal for these MPA's, stated process for enacting, or any proof that they work to accomplish any goal. MPA's are also referred to many other times throught the document, pages 44,61, and 62 are just a few others. Many studies show that MPA's have very little to no effect (www.seafriends.org.nz is one place to start) so why endorse such a policy without review. Is this a feel good thing? "Hey, Let's do something for the sake of doing something and this sounds like the easiest thing to do". A Florida Marine research study showed that even though the population of fish may increase in a no-take zone, that may be at the expense of the population of fish outside the the no-fish zone.
Some of our favorite fisheries may be restricted as well. Page 43 states that fishing opportunities for species other than rockfish (i.e. salmon,lingcod, and halibut) may be limited or modified. We are also seeing this in the new rule proposals out this year. WDFW is proposing closing bottomfishing deeper than 120ft. This would give the state the right to shut down or alter any fishery that it wants and all they have to say is that it is good for rockfish recovery. Am I being a little paranoid here? I don't think so, just look at what happened this summer with the proposal to shut down sportfishing within a half mile of san Juan Island. Do I need to give any more examples?
Another aspect that is bothersome to me is that WDFW gives us a little hope of constructing an artificial reef but on page 51 they state, "Any constructed habitat would be CLOSED to fishing for rockfish". Then again on page 69, WDFW says that, "Construction or use of enhancement techniques to provide or increase fishing opportunities will not be considered".
If our research shows that by using artificial habitat we can have sustainable harvest then wouldn't that the best benefit to all?
I'm not suggesting we have a free for all, but allowing sustainable harvest would not only be of great economic benefit but many social and family traditions would be served as well. A good, sustainable fishery for rockfish would also take pressure off some of the other fish that are in trouble.
Many would like to just leave the habitat the way it is, stop any fishing for them and let them recover on their own. I on the other hand do not have 50 years to wait. I say man has created this problem, now we need to fix it by once again, enhancing habitat and providing hatchery supplementation. We have visited the federal hatchery in Manchester where they are raising rockfish, cod, and halibut already. WSA divers have already been successful in constructing some local dive reefs. NOAA wants to do do the research and WSDOT wants some good publicity by providing clean material and green jobs. The players are in place and the time is now, all we need is for the sportfishing community to get behind this and let WDFW know how you feel. Please click on the links below my blog link on the home page of wwwtheoutdoorline.com for meeting dates and how to send in a comment.