National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), propose to designate critical habitat for three species of rockfish in Puget Sound & Strait

Big news. The Federal Government is proposing designating critical habitat for certain rockfish. Public comment now open. Comments on this proposed rule must be received by 5 p.m. P.S.T. on November 4, 2013. Requests for public hearings must be made in writing by September 20, 2013. Comments close on 11/04/2013. The Feds say “Puget Sound” but actually are also including some areas of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. To them, it’s apparently all the same. They delineate it deeper in the document.  From the people I’ve talked to close to this decision, this has been studied a great deal and a lot of meetings have been held getting to this decision.  It likely will raise some objections, likely intense. But the stocks are in such critical shape in many places,  this appears to be needed. It’s not a new issue, the fact that the Feds have finally moved on it is. Hopefully (and apparently) we still have time to save some of them.  As you may or may not know, rockfish do not migrate. They hang out in their habitat, and can live  a long long time. They are often bycatch of other fisheries, and if you bring them up from a great depth, they end up often getting ‘the bends’ (barimetric poisoning) and die.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), propose to designate critical habitat for three species of rockfish listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including the threatened Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of yelloweye rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus), the threatened DPS of canary rockfish (S. pinniger), and the endangered DPS of bocaccio (S. paucispinus) (listed rockfish). The specific areas proposed for designation for canary rockfish and bocaccio include approximately 1,184.75 sq mi (3,068.5 sq km) of marine habitat in Puget Sound, Washington. The specific areas proposed for designation for yelloweye rockfish include approximately 574.75 sq mi (1,488.6 sq km) of marine habitat in Puget Sound, Washington. We propose to exclude some particular areas from designation because the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion and exclusion of those areas will not result in the extinction of the species.


And more from Mike Satos’ blog:

The National Marine Fisheries Service proposes to designate almost 1,200 square miles of Puget Sound as critical habitat for three species of endangered rockfish. The habitat protection follows the 2010 decision to list yelloweye, canary and bocaccio rockfish under the Endangered Species Act. The Fisheries Service says the rockfish are vulnerable to overfishing because they have long lives and mature slowly with sporadic reproduction. Tuesday’s designation will require federal agencies to make sure their actions don’t harm rockfish habitat. The protected area in Puget Sound overlaps existing critical habitat for Puget Sound Chinook and Hood Canal summer-run chum, bull trout and Southern Resident killer whales. Critical habitat listed for Puget Sound rockfish Also, if they haven’t erected a paywall, Chris Dunagan reports: Habitat protection proposed for endangered rockfish in Puget Sound


3 Responses

  1. Alan, I have to admit that it seems to me, that anytime the Federal Government gets involved in anything, fishing or anything else, they take a broad brush approach that usually benefits the big ‘corporate’ interests to the detriment of the small ones. (The current Monsanto battle is a perfect example of this). This seems to be what happens when you get the polarized situation that currently exists, with one side refusing to work with the other, and lawsuits being the only way forward. The rule makers at that level seem to be people who have never lived here, just policy wonks in DC. It becomes our job to educate them to the basics, which is why the public comment period is worth anything, though so often it seems to us that it is just a way to give the ‘little people’ a voice, and the real behind the scenes decisionmaking plays out without us knowing why the choices are made. It’s often done with the best of intentions.

    I’m highly suspicious of any Federal intervention like this, as the outcome often seems to be just as you say. But status quo is causing the fish to vanish. Maybe if there was more money for enforcement of existing rules, it might be helpful. In the meantime, let’s follow this new process and see if anything helpful comes out of it. Bottom line, the fish are just not thriving.

    • Al, I support the process, as far as it goes, of designating critical habitat for endangered species of rockfish.You’re right that the fish populations are dropping to critical levels. During the past 30 years, I’ve seen rockfish numbers go from plentiful to scarce. In the late 70’s, rockfish larvae were easy to find in plankton trawls. They were the fish in “fish and chips”. When I was kayaking along the NW coast of BC in the 90’s, they were dinner. Now many places where they used to be found are empty of the species. We need to do something.

      We seem to have a hard time, especially in lean economic times, of supporting the enforcement of existing laws protecting fish and wildlife. The by-catch of rockfish has really taken a toll of many of the most endangered of rockfish species. That’s one of the reasons I may be so adamant about establishing no-take zones in WA that are similar to the marine protected areas (MPA) that have been and are being set up off of the coast of CA.

  2. Though long overdue, the designation of critical habitat is probably not enough. Setting aside “no fishing” zones for rockfish would be controversial and excite opposition among both recreational and commercial fishermen. But the concept of true sanctuaries or “no fishing” zones has worked, for many species of rockfish, off of both CA and OR. The idea would allow the slow maturing and non-migratory rockfish species to be able to reproduce and rebuild populations.

    Though helpful in rebuilding rockfish populations, the “no fishing” zones in CA and OR seem to have benefited larger commercial fishing groups, while many local fishermen and smaller commercial fishing companies have lost jobs. This problem would have to be worked on. If somebody has a better idea for restoring rockfish populations, that actually works and has research behind it, they should get it out there.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: