NEWPORT, Ore. – Following a storm with hurricane-force winds just a day after the opening of the commercial Dungeness crab season on Dec. 1, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has made it easier for crabbers to recover lost and scattered gear.
ODFW today adopted temporary rules to allow boats to retrieve up to six pots belonging to another vessel that have been lost, forgotten, damaged, abandoned or otherwise derelict. The retrieving vessel should record the gear in their logbooks and return the gear to shore during the same fishing trip.
“Our industry advisors support regulations that would allow for gear recovery,” explained ODFW’s Marine Resources Manager Patty Burke. “We wanted to allow boats that come across lost crab pots to legally be able to bring them into port so the owner can get them back.”
Permanent regulations related to pot limits prohibit vessels from having gear onboard unless it has that vessel’s buoy tags and markings. The pot limit plan came about after many members of the commercial crab industry voiced concerns about problems associated with the growing amount of gear in the fishery. This is the second season of the crab pot limit program that restricts the number of pots a crabber may fish.
“Industry advisors also want to create incentives to avoid gear loss in the first place,” added Burke. “This season, many operators moved their gear prior to the storm to avoid shallow waters, and have put a premium on fishing strategies that will prevent gear loss.”
Bob Spelbrink, a commercial crabber who spoke via cell phone today from aboard his vessel, the F/V Alliance, said not many of his pots were scattered by the storm but others weren’t so lucky. Gear in the Columbia River area was most affected by the storm where crabbers have found gear that is tangled, buried and irretrievable,” “We fish out of Garibaldi and the pots didn’t move that much,” Spellbrink said.
“In the past, everyone has always been good about bringing in lost gear,” Spellbrink continued. “During the summer, I got eight maybe 10 pots that other people brought in for me. That’s been an unwritten law for most of the fisherman around here. Now with the pot limits you weren’t allowed to have another boat’s pots onboard so this is a helpful change.”
So far, Spelbrink has found three or four pots that he brought in, but they have all been from last season.
“Before pot limits started there would have been a lot more gear loss in a storm like this,” Spellbrink explained. “With a thousand pots you can take more chances and put them in shallower water. Now, with only 500 pots, I can’t afford to lose too many and I’m very careful where I put them.”
To provide additional assistance and streamline efforts to replace irretrievable lost gear, ODFW has moved up the date to allow for lost pot replacement tags from Dec. 31 to Dec. 14, 2007.