Who Cares About Rockfish? 2
By BEAR HOLMES. Frank Eshpeter, South King County PSA chapter President, always gives me the opportunity to provide a short update to the membership on the progress of CCA’s artificial reef proposal or some other rockfish related topic at our monthly meetings. This month I asked how many of the audience members were familiar with the no bottom fishing deeper than 120’ rule. Not surprisingly, less than half raised their hands. I went on to explain the 120’ rule and also touched on the Marine Area 4-B proposal and asked them to get involved and send feedback to the Commission supporting “status quo” on MA 4-B.
After the meeting a guy came up to me and asked me why I waste so much time talking about rockfish. He said “We can’t fish for ‘em, can’t keep ‘em and really, who cares about rockfish?” His message was essentially that I was wasting his time (all 5 minutes) talking about rockfish every month. I told him I happen to care about rockfish and like them because there is a wide variety, they are cool looking, fun to catch and great to eat and I’d like my grand-kids to have the opportunity to catch them in Puget Sound. I also said: “A more important question is: ‘Why should you care about rockfish?’ The answer is because they have the potential to affect every fishery in Puget Sound.” He said “That’s bullsnort (or something close) they don’t have anything to do with salmon or steelhead or anything else except maybe lingcod and you’re full of snort!” and then he walked off.
Rockfish populated this artificial reef after just a few months.
That caused me to wonder how many how many sports fishers actually know how serious and far reaching the ramifications of the rockfish demise could be to their particular fishery.
Here’s an indisputable fact: the ESA listing of Canary, Yellow Eye and Boccaccio, has the potential to adversely affect all sports fisheries in Puget Sound including crabbing and shrimping.
The 120’ rule is in response to the ESA listing; it is designed to protect the older larger rockfish, the wild “broodstock” if you will. As it stands, the 120’ rule for no retention “only” applies to bottom fish and that includes rockfish and lingcod but excludes halibut. There are serious on-going discussions about extending the 120’ rule to include salmon and especially halibut. By the way, the 120’ rule covers about 60.8% of Puget Sound waters or more than 1.1 million acres; it is a serious hunk of real estate and sports fishers need to open their eyes and pay attention to what is going on around them. There are some issues with the 120’ rule we still need to address but I’ll leave that topic for another day.
Also in response to the ESA listing, the Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan recommends establishing “a series of Marine Protected Areas”. The scientists we’ve talked to recommend setting aside a minimum of 20% of Puget Sound as MPA’s and another yet to be defined series of rockfish recovery areas. Once MPA’s are established in the name of rockfish conservation and restoration, they will be “no-take zones” where all (recreational) consumptive activities, including crabbing, shrimping and clamming will be prohibited. Rockfish restoration is discussed in terms of “decades”. So… it is my opinion that every sports fisher, crabber and shrimper in Puget Sound should care about rockfish or, more correctly, what measures are in play for rockfish conservation and restoration.
The longer restoration takes, the longer the other fisheries could be affected. It is my opinion any reasonable measures to jump-start rockfish recovery in Puget Sound should be seriously considered. That brings us to my favorite topic; CCA’s proposal for a scientific study of artificial reefs in Puget Sound.
Reef Balls have been shown to be very effective in other parts of the world.
There are studies showing properly designed and constructed artificial reefs produce fish as well as, and in some cases better than, natural reefs. CCA is proposing a group of public and private stakeholders combine their resources and put together a scientific study of artificial reefs in south Puget Sound for the purpose of determining if man-made structure has value in rockfish restoration. To that end, Rob Tobeck and I along with Ron Garner, State Board President of Puget Sound Anglers, met with WDFW Director Phil Anderson and his senior staff to discuss this proposal. The proposal is supported by PSA, NOAA, the Washington SCUBA Alliance and many others.
Sunken ships also provide great habitat.
I will provide updates if (when) this proposal moves forward. In the meantime I strongly encourage all of you to pay attention and look at what's happening around you and if you still don't care about rockfish… you might want to take another look.
Bio: Bear Holmes is a fourth generation Washingtonian, lifelong sportsman and longtime sports fishing activist. He sits on the South King County PSA chapter board, CCA State Board, CCA Government Relations Committee and is the Chair of CCA's Puget Sound Marine Enhancement Committee.