Low-oxygen problems in Hood Canal chokes off most fishing

Hood Canal is expected to be closed to all fishing, except for salmon, until further notice.

The move comes as dissolved oxygen levels in the southern end of Hood Canal reach record lows.

Plants and fish that live in scenic waterway’s depths are being strangled. Low-oxygen levels have been blamed for major fish kills in Hood Canal the past two years.

This Saturday, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider new fishing regulations to permanently close Hood Canal to sport and non-tribal commercial fishing for all bottomfish, smelt, herring, anchovy, squid, octopus and sea cucumbers.

The closure would not affect salmon fishing or the harvesting of shrimp, crab, oysters or clams.

Salmon tend to stay near the surface, and shellfish don’t seem to be as susceptible to low-oxygen conditions.

Stressed sea life like rockfish, which normally live at deep depths, have been found swimming close to the surface, according to research performed by the state Puget Sound Action Team.

For the past two years, Fish and Wildlife has enacted emergency closures for fisheries in Hood Canal.

“The severity of these events and the continued use of emergency regulations to address a longer-term issue is an approach that is inappropriate,” said Morris Barker, state marine resource manager.

“Permanent rules are the approach to deal with the long term issue” until conditions change.

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