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Originally published Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 3:18 PM

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State commission weighing options to rebalance area shrimp fishery

Changes are coming this spring for the highly popular Puget Sound and Hood Canal spot-shrimp fishery. "The (state Fish and Wildlife) Commission...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Reel Time Northwest

Seattle native and lifelong angler Mark Yuasa blogs on fishing in the Pacific Northwest.

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Changes are coming this spring for the highly popular Puget Sound and Hood Canal spot-shrimp fishery.

"The (state Fish and Wildlife) Commission is looking at four options that are basically a way to rebalance the catches between the (sport and nontribal commercial) fisheries," said Mark O'Toole, a state Fish and Wildlife shrimp manager.

The current shrimp-fishery allocations have been in place since 2003, and in some marine areas the annual nontribal commercial catch has increased dramatically while the sport fishery has dwindled.

"It can't continue on this track, and we've lost quite a bit of opportunity for spot shrimp," said Ron Garner, a member of the state Fish and Wildlife sport-fishing advisory board and president of the Puget Sound Anglers' Sno-King Chapter.

Sport shrimpers in south-central Puget Sound had just two days on the water last season compared to 51 in 2003, and the San Juan Island region was open six days, down from 65.

The option made by the sport-fishing advisory board would see an allocation of 75 percent and a commercial harvest of 25 percent.

Based on last year's catches, that would mean a total of 194,300 pounds to sport and 66,200 to commercial.

The proposal would also keep the San Juan Islands open 36 days instead of the current six.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca would grow from 68 days to 136; northern Puget Sound would rise slightly from two to three; central and south-central Puget Sound would go from two to four; and southern Puget Sound would get a boost from two to five.

Hood Canal would remain status quo. Discovery Bay would stay at four days.

Under current rules, the sport fishery in San Juan Islands (Region 1) is entitled to 15 percent of annual quota; northern Puget Sound (2) is 60 percent; Strait of Juan de Fuca (3) is 15 percent; central and south-central Puget Sound (4) is 60 percent; Hood Canal (5) is 100 percent; and southern Puget Sound (6) is 40 percent.

The commission has proposed a sport-allocation option of 65 percent to sport and 35 percent to commercial fisheries, while the commercial advisory group made a recommendation of 56 percent to sport and 44 percent to commercial fisheries.

The fourth option is for the seasons to keep a 50-50 split between the two parties.

There are 18 commercial licenses, which are owned by 16 fishermen. Of those, all but two fish in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands.

Garner said state Fish and Wildlife has shown the sport shrimp fishery averaged about 33,000 trips annually since 2009, and the economic value is more than $2 million per year.

"The shrimp opener is the biggest sport-fish boating day on the water, and we put a lot of money into the economy related to the fishery," Garner said.

Public comment will be taken when the state Fish and Wildlife Commission meets at 9 a.m. Nov. 9 at the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. S.E., Room 172 in Olympia. Comments can be emailed to commission@dfw.wa.gov or mailed to Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, 600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

The commission will make a final decision at a meeting on Dec. 14-15. To view the shrimp management policy and options, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/ps_shrimp.html. The Puget Sound Anglers Club also has an action alert at www.pugetsoundanglers.org.

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