OLYMPIA — Many fisheries in the north Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca are reopening during the next week as the state loosens outdoor recreation restrictions prompted by the COVID-19 virus.
Leading the way is the reopening of the spot shrimp (prawns) fishery. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced the shrimp seasons Friday.
Marine Area 5 (western Strait of Juan de Fuca) will open to spot shrimp Thursday. Marine Area 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca — Port Angeles Harbor, excluding the Discovery Bay Shrimp District) will open Thursday for one day, then June 1-13 daily and then Thursdays through Sundays each week beginning June 18 until the quota is met.
The Discovery Bay Shrimp District will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 11, 15 and 28.
Marine Area 9 (Edmonds, Port Townsend Bay, Admiralty Inlet) is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on June 11.
Marine Area 12 (the Hood Canal Shrimping District) will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on June 11, 15, 26 and 28, and July 15 and 28.
Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay and Olympic Pacific Ocean Coast) will remain closed to shrimp.
“It took a lot of coordination, but we are happy to have found a way to work with communities to offer shrimp fishing and the peace of mind that comes with a day outside on the water,” said Don Velasquez, shellfish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The dates approved reflect a conscious effort to offer opportunities to harvest while still abiding by public health recommendations, such as keeping participants distributed, allowing physical distancing, limiting travel and discouraging overnight stays, Velasquez said.
WDFW is asking for cooperation from shrimp fishers to reduce risk. “Patience and courtesy will be needed at boat ramps and launches,” said Velasquez. “Shrimp [harvesters]should allow extra time for launching their boats to adhere to health authorities’ advice for physical distancing.”
All shrimp — including spot, dock, coonstripe, and pink shrimp — can be kept as part of the daily limit. However, because only larger mesh (1 inch) traps are allowed during these seasons, most harvest will be spot shrimp, said Velasquez. Also known as prawns, spot shrimp are the largest shrimp in Puget Sound and may grow up to nine inches in length.
Additional dates and times may be announced if enough quota remains after the initial opening. In all areas, shrimpers are limited to 80 shrimp a day during May. Beginning June 1, the daily limit is 10 pounds of shrimp with a maximum of 80 spot shrimp.
Traps can be set one hour before official sunrise during open periods. The pots must be removed from the water by one hour after sunset. Seasons for dock, coonstripe and pink shrimp will begin later this year and will be announced separately by the WDFW.
Marine Areas 1-3, including Willpa Bay and Grays Harbor, will open for bottomfish, shellfish, mussels, clams, oysters and other species on Tuesday. This includes a stretch of ocean from the Columbia River north to Cape Alava.
Some coastal waterways will reopen Tuesday. Marine Area 4 will remain closed to all recreation fishing and shellfish harvesting. The Makah and Quileute reservations, including marinas, remain closed to visitors and anglers are urged not to attempt to access the ocean from these areas.
Additional fishery closures may be implemented if anglers attempt to launch from closed access sites.
Coastal razor clam digs also remain closed because they can draw thousands of clammers congregating in small coastal communities.
Clam, mussel and oyster harvesting also remains closed on Puget Sound beaches in marine areas 5-13.
The WDFW is seeking public comments on proposed rules for the 2020-21 recreational and commercial salmon fishing seasons.
These fishing rules are the culmination of a multi-month effort as part of the annual North of Falcon process, which gathers state, federal and tribal fishery managers to plan the Northwest’s recreational and commercial salmon fisheries, with input from the public. This year’s process included more than a dozen public meetings, originally scheduled throughout the state, that occurred virtually to support public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We realize that this year’s salmon season-setting process looked a little different for everyone involved,” said Kyle Adicks, WDFW salmon fisheries policy leader. “We’re so appreciative of the time everyone shared with us to dial or tune in virtually, and want to give those interested another opportunity to participate in this process as we move to finalize these rules.”
To see the full rule-making package, visit tinyurl.com/salmonrulemaking.
The public can submit comments online at tinyurl.com/salmoncomments.
The WDFW is also accepting comments by email to [email protected] or by mail to WDFW Rules Coordinator: PO Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504-3200.
WDFW will also take public comment at 9 a.m. June 9 during a public hearing. To support continuing COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, the hearing will be available to the public through webinar or conference call.