NEWPORT, Ore. – In an effort to get lost and damaged commercial crab pots out of the ocean, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife adopted a temporary rule to allow any commercial fishing vessel to legally retrieve commercial Dungeness crab gear from the ocean in September and October.
The rules governing the crab pot limits, which are new this year, prohibit the possession of gear on a vessel unless it has that vessel’s buoy tags and markings. Fisherman had until the end of August to retrieve all crab gear form the ocean. Now that the season is over, ODFW is lifting the restriction to allow for vessels to legally collect any commercial Dungeness crab gear—even gear without their vessel’s buoy tags and markings—and voluntarily bring it in from the ocean.
“In past years, it has been common practice for commercial vessels, including crabbers, trawlers, and trollers, to retrieve Dungeness crab gear that does not belong to them and drop it off for the owner to pick up,” said Patty Burke, manager of the Marine Resources Program. “The temporary rule allows vessels to resume this voluntary practice over the next two months.”
ODFW wants to see the gear removed because abandoned gear is still “fishing” and the gear can put crab at risk. In addition, this kind of gear poses a navigational hazard for other vessels and interferes with other fisheries such as salmon trolling and sport fishing. “If this temporary program works out, we can propose allowing this kind of voluntary gear retrieval off-season every year,” added Burke.
The department is working with coastal ports, Oregon State Police, the industry and the Dungeness Crab Commission on this program. When the temporary rule expires on Nov. 1, 2007, the tag/ownership restriction on pot gear will be in effect again.
The temporary rule only applies to retrieval of crab gear used in the ocean Dungeness crab fishery. Gear used for the other minor commercial ocean crab fisheries, such as for box crab or tanner crab, is legally fishing and may only be retrieved by the permitted vessel. For these fisheries, crab gear is identifiable by buoys marked with “BOX” or “TAN” followed by a number. These numbers are registered with ODFW and OSP.
Fishermen who retrieve crab gear are asked to voluntarily report the following information to the Crab Commission’s toll-free derelict gear reporting hotline, 1-800-707-CRAB (2722):
- Date gear retrieved and general location found
- Total number pots found and the port where the pots were dropped
- Gear ownership (if available) and phone number or other contact information for the skipper bringing it in
Please contact Port Offices, ODFW Marine Resources Program or Oregon State Police if you have further questions. For general questions call Mitch Vance or Cyreis Schmitt in the ODFW’s Newport Marine Resources Program office at (541) 867-4741.