Fish/Shellfish Research and Management - Management and Conservation
Date Published: March 2011
Number of Pages: 223
Author(s): Greg Bargmann, Wayne Palsson, Craig Burley, Darren Friedel, and Theresa Tsou.
Rockfish in Puget Sound are in trouble. Many, but not all, rockfish species have declined in abundance, some quite severely, over the past two decades. These declines have resulted in increased scientific, economic, and social concerns about the status of the resource and the viability of fisheries for rockfish in Puget Sound. This concern has manifested itself in several forums. In 1999, a petition was presented to the federal government to list several species of rockfish in Puget Sound under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). A scientific conference held in the San Juan Islands in 2003 concluded that the outlook for rockfish was “grim” (Mills and Rawson, 2004). A special review by the American Fisheries Society found several species of rockfish to be “vulnerable” in Puget Sound. A review of marine life in Puget Sound concluded that demersal rockfish were in decline, largely as a result of overharvest (West 1997). Another review of marine fish concluded that marine fish in Puget Sound were among the most threatened stocks of fish in North America (Musick et al. 1998). In 2007, another petition was received by the federal government. This petition requested that five species of rockfish in Puget Sound receive protection under the ESA; in 2009 the Department of Commerce concluded that two of these species (canary and yelloweye rockfish) warrant protection as threatened and one species (bocaccio rockfish) warrants protection as endangered.
These declines have largely been caused by historical fishing practices, although several other stress factors play a part in their decline. Rockfish in urban areas are exposed to high levels of chemical contamination, which may be affecting their reproductive success. Poor water quality in Hood Canal has resulted in massive periodic kills of rockfish as well as other species. Lost or abandoned fishing nets trap and kill large numbers of rockfish. This Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan (PSRCP) provides a plan for rebuilding rockfish populations and providing sustainable fisheries when appropriate.1
This plan was prepared by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in response to these declines and threats. The goal of the plan is to provide a pathway to protect existing stocks of rockfish, rebuild depleted stocks, and provide sustainable fishing and other economic and harvest benefits to our citizens. The WDFW recognizes the Puget Sound tribes also have conservation concerns associated with rockfish populations. Rockfish co-management plans will be developed with appropriate Treaty tribes. The tribes’ and state’s fishery jurisdictions and authorities significantly overlap. To promote effective and efficient management of fisheries resources and to minimize potential conflict, the Department and tribes have developed a cooperative management approach to exercise their respective authorities and to achieve shared conservation objectives. This approach will be reflected in co-management agreements as the various tribes contribute their knowledge and expertise to support rebuilding wild rockfish stocks. The PSRCP will be the foundation to manage non-tribal fisheries and will be used with tribal co-managers to develop fishery management plans.
WDFW has concluded that the adoption of this plan falls under the authority of the State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA). Accordingly, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was prepared to accompany this plan. After undergoing a period of public review, the Draft EIS and draft plan was revised, a Final EIS was issued, and the Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan was adopted by the Department.
This plan will be used as the Department’s basis for developing co-management plans with tribal governments, establishing priorities for funding and staff assignments, and making specific regulation changes. WDFW will develop a schedule within available resources to implement the Plan’s strategies and actions. WDFW will seek additional resources and partnerships to fully implement the plan.
1. The Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan refers to all rockfish species in Puget Sound and not specifically to the Puget Sound rockfish (Sebastes emphaeus) although this species is considered in the plan.
Draft documents are provided for informational purposes only. Drafts may contain factual inaccuracies and may not reflect current WDFW policy.