While public comment on a broad range of sport-fishing rule proposals may be the most cantankerous item at the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission’s Dec. 4-5 meeting, there’s another brief that’s just starting to raise eyebrows.
Michelle Culver, director of WDFW’s coastal region, will give a presentation on the status of the state’s offshore albacore fishery.
“The question before the Commission is,” she says, “Do they want to consider a bag limit for recreational anglers? We’re not making a recommendation one way or the other.”
OLYMPIA ANGLER MIKE QUIMBY IS AMONG A GROWING CORPS OF WASHINGTON ANGLERS WHO HEAD WELL OUT TO SEA FOR ALBACORE TUNA. (MIKE QUIMBY)
Currently, there is no limit as more and more Evergreen State anglers and an increasingly dialed-in sport fleet pursue the species.
To the south this year, Oregon enjoyed its second most successful sport fishery ever. According to ODFW’s Eric Schindler in Newport, 42,055 were brought back to harbors up and down the coast. Only 2007’s catch of 58,000-plus was bigger.
Culver says she’ll be giving Washington’s Commission background on how other states and NMFS manage the species. In Oregon, basically the daily limit is 25 as part of a mixed bag of pelagic species. California has a split bag: 25 in the north, 10 in the south.
She says that as part of NMFS’s rule-making process for the 2011-13 seasons, albacore issues are being looked at next year.
If NMFS were to adopt a limit, they would ask states to follow suit.
States can be more restrictive than the feds, but not more liberal, Culver says.
While some may bristle at limits, in Oregon, where tuna fishing’s better, very few anglers load the boat. In fact, says Schindler, the average fisherman only brings back four a trip.
But that potential high bag limit is “like a casino,” he notes.
It helps draw customers to charters and coastal towns– even though the odds of hitting a big payout are small.
“The majority of people are never going to get to 25,” Schindler says. “The majority of people are going to be happy with ten or less.”
DEANNA VU'S ALBIE WAS AMONG THE FIRST COUPLE THOUSAND LANDED DURING OREGON'S STELLAR SUMMER TUNA FISHERY. OVERALL, 42,055 WERE BROUGHT BACK TO WINCHESTER BAY, CHARLESTON, NEWPORT, GARIBALDI AND OTHER PORTS THIS YEAR. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)
From what he’s hearing, there’s not really a big push on to impose recreational limits either, but there is some federal concern about commercial efforts on the highly migratory species.
Right now, it’s an unlimited commercial fishery, without trip limits or vessel limitations, he says.
“The jist we’re hearing from NOAA is capping effort, not increasing it,” Schindler says.
Albacore stocks are considered high right now, but the commercial effort on them “is not deemed sustainable going into the future if stock levels go back to average,” he says.
Culver says that if the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission is interested in setting a limit, it could be brought up again at their February or March meetings. NMFS has it on their calendar for June meetings.