Clallam commissioners join other boards in calling for longer halibut season

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County has joined the chorus of local governments asking the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to extend the halibut fishing season.

The three commissioners voted Tuesday to pass a resolution in support of a seven-month season. The measure describes the recreational fishing industry as “vitally important to the economic health and well-being of Clallam County.”

“This is an important issue,” Commissioner Bill Peach said before the unanimous vote.

This year’s halibut season is scheduled for May 4, May 6 and May 11 in Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and off Neah Bay, La Push and Westport.

The county resolution calls on state officials to extend the 2018 season from March through October with an annual limit of six fish per person.

City, port OK similar resolutions

The city of Port Angeles and Port of Port Angeles have approved nearly identical resolutions in recent weeks.

Port Angeles Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd brought the item to the commissioners’ work session Monday and testified in support of the measure Tuesday. The resolution was added to the board’s agenda Monday.

“I just want to thank you for stepping up, responding to our citizens and helping us ask that we have our halibut fishing season extended beyond three days, not just for the economic impact to our entire Peninsula but for the safety of the fishermen and the concerns of their families,” Kidd told commissioners.

“If there’s only three days to fish and there’s inclement weather, they will go out and fish. The Coast Guard has supported us in asking for more days.”

The halibut fishing season was 70 days in 2006, 12 days in 2014, 11 days in 2015 and eight days in 2016, according to the resolution.

Kidd said a three-day, non-consecutive-day season will have a “devastating” impact on North Olympic Peninsula tourism.

The shortened halibut season eliminated this year’s halibut derby in Port Angeles.

“And this is shoulder season,” Kidd said, referring to the Memorial Day weekend derby.

“The merchants and the restaurants and the hotels really count on this year after year for their inventory, for their sales, for our sales tax for the county and the city.”

The annual Port Angeles Salmon Club Halibut Derby drew an estimated 200 to 300 anglers from beyond the North Olympic Peninsula in recent years, club members said when they canceled the derby last November.

Kidd said she planned to seek support for similar measures from Jefferson County commissioners and the Sequim, Forks and Port Townsend city councils.

Fish and Wildlife sets halibut seasons using poundage quotas set by the International Pacific Halibut Commission approved by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, according to the resolution.

Michele Culver, intergovernmental ocean policy manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@ peninsuladailynews.com.

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