Bottomfish numbers declining in local waters

Published on Thu, Feb 27, 2003 by Meg Olson

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Bottomfish numbers declining in
local waters

By Meg Olson

At a February 19 meeting focusing on bottomfish in local waters members of the county�s Marine Resources Committee (MRC) came up against local fishermen, who argued declining numbers of fish being caught was more a function of less fishers than less fish.

�I work less and catch more. My pounds are up on everything,� said Shawn Waters, owner of the Tulip and one of Blaine�s last fishers to make his living catching fish that live on the ocean floor. �Back in the 80s it may have been a little overfished, but now there are so few of us here.�

MRC member Chris Fairbanks presented data that showed stocks of bottomfish took a nose-dive in the mid-1980s. Bottomfish being tracked include rockfish, flat fish like flounder and sole, ling cod and pacific cod. The group is holding a series of public meetings as part of an effort to develop recommendations to preserve local bottomfish, including limits to harvest, gear and even establishing no-fish preserves where the largely sedentary species could build their populations. Waters said higher water temperatures off Cherry Point due to the discharge of cooling water from the refineries was more to blame than fishing pressure. �We�ve had to go deeper and farther from the refineries to catch fish,� he said.

Most audience members supported the idea of using more input from fishermen in managing fish populations. �No offense to the game department but these guys have done this all their lives. We could listen to them and use their information.�

Later this year, the MRC will make recommendations to the state department of fish and wildlife and tribal fisheries authorities which co-manage fishing in state waters.