Meeting this week to discuss coastal commercial Dungeness crab fishery

This week, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will hold a public meeting on a conservation plan for the coastal commercial Dungeness crab fishery.

WDFW will host the meeting on Thursday, Dec. 10.

Officials say they are developing the conservation plan as a necessary component to apply for an Incidental Take Permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service. 

The permit, if approved, would outline mitigation measures and reporting requirements should certain threatened or endangered species — including humpback whales, blue whales, and Pacific leatherback sea turtles — become entangled in crab gear as a result of normal fishing activity.

California and Oregon also plan to apply for similar incidental take permits for their own coastal crab fisheries.

“With support from the commercial crab industry, we’ve already taken steps to reduce entanglements, including reducing the crab-pot limit and additional buoy tagging requirements during the peak time when whales are expected to be present off the Washington coast,” said Heather Hall, WDFW’s intergovernmental ocean policy coordinator. “While the ultimate goal is to promote the recovery of these species by reducing the entanglement risk, this conservation plan will allow WDFW and its partners a transparent approach to communicate and respond to critical biological and ecological information.”

This spring, WDFW met with Washington coastal Dungeness crab industry members to share progress on development of the plan and received input on potential actions to avoid and reduce interactions with protected species. WDFW anticipates having a complete draft of the plan by January 2021.

The department is interested in hearing public comment on the plan’s goals, objectives, and adaptive management approach at a virtual public meeting from 5-8 p.m. on Dec. 10.

The meeting will include a presentation summarizing the plan and staff will be on hand to answer questions and hear comments.

Members of the public can participate in the meeting from a computer or mobile device or call in via phone at 564-999-2000 and enter the conference ID: 976 320 267#.

Questions and requests for additional information can be directed to Heather Hall at 360-902-2487 or [email protected]

WDFW is the primary state agency tasked with preserving, protecting, and perpetuating fish, wildlife, and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing and hunting opportunities.