NEWS: Pacific Coast closed to bottom fishing the rest of this year

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Posted by Chris on November 06, 2003 at 21:32:15:

Pacific Coast Seed Bottom Fishing Limits

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Federal regulators have decided to close a large swath of Pacific Coast waters to bottom fishing for the rest of the year to boost recovery of depleted stocks, California officials said Thursday.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council, which sets limits on West Coast fishing, voted Wednesday to restrict catches of bottom-dwelling fish off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.

The council, meeting in Del Mar, Calif., recommended a suspension of commercial fishing in shallow coastal waters, extending from the shore to depths of up to 1,200 feet. The closure would also apply to recreational fishing, except in areas where depleted species wouldn't be affected.

The council's decision came after recent surveys found harvest limits had been reached or exceeded for lingcod and canary rockfish. Council members were concerned continued fishing near the shore would further deplete stocks of the two species.

Most fishermen had been expecting the early closure, said Zeke Grader, executive director of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.

``If anyone was paying attention, they knew these restrictions were in place,'' Grader said. ``This is based on what science we have. How good the science is debatable, but we have to base it on something.''

The council will recommend the closure to the National Marine Fisheries Service, which will likely adopt the measure in mid- to late November, just before the holiday season - when demand for seafood rises and large numbers of anglers head to the ocean to fish, officials said.

``For fishermen who have small boats and can't fish in deeper water, it's a tremendously big deal because they won't be fishing for the rest of the year,'' said Rod Moore, executive director of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association. He said some processors will see less business.

In 2001, 11,400 metric tons of groundfish, generating $16.7 million in sales, were caught off the California coast. About 1,600 commercial vessels catch and sell groundfish in the state, according to state Department of Fish and Game figures.

California plans to adjust fishing limits in state waters, which extend three miles offshore, to conform to the council's decision and help boost recovery efforts for depleted species, state officials said.

``We have to take a conservative route to make sure there are fish that remain the following year and the year after,'' DFG spokeswoman Chamois Andersen said.

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