Panel passes restrictions on West Coast fishing intended to protect depleted species

By Colleen Valles, The Associated Press
Saturday June 22, 2002

FOSTER CITY — The federal government approved severe limits to protect several depleted species of fish, but some anglers said they were grateful the changes weren’t more restrictive. 

The Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to prohibit groundfish fishing in medium depths north of Cape Mendocino, about 200 miles north of San Francisco. South of the cape, groundfish trawling will be prohibited except for doversole, thornyhead and sable fish. 

Some fishermen fear the proposed restrictions could endanger their livelihoods and force them to venture farther out to sea. But some said they were relieved that stiffer restrictions which had been considered were not approved. 

“Everybody wishes it could be better but it’s the more acceptable of the two choices,” said Rod Moore, executive director of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association. 

The panel further voted to require that groundfish caught as bycatch — fish caught as fishermen pursue other species — must be released back into the ocean. It also voted to close recreational fishing for groundfish in waters deeper that 120 feet south of Cape Mendocino. 

The panel’s action was prompted by evidence that some types of fish are more depleted than scientists originally thought. Those include three species of rockfish — Pacific red snapper, grouper and fantail — that have been declared overfished in recent years. 

Thursday’s vote affects fishing the rest of this year; final approval of the management plan is scheduled for September. 

The council manages fisheries from three miles off the Pacific coast to 200 miles offshore. 

In 2000, sport and commercial fisheries generated $1 billion in income for the West Coast. Of that, commercial fisheries generated $77 million in Washington, $153 million in Oregon and $426 million in California.