MPAs in Puget Sound

This is from an email list-server I recieve:


On Monday, 25 March, the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission approved creation of a new marine conservation area at Keystone off Whidbey Island and new marine preserves at Zee's Reef off Fox Island near Gig Harbor and at Admiralty Head off Whidbey Island. According to a 27 March announcement, the Zee's Reef Marine Preserve marks the first underwater rocky habitat south of the Tacoma Narrows to be designated for protection by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW). The area will remain open for recreational salmon fly fishing only, but otherwise will be closed to fishing to protect rockfish and other marine fish species. The marine preserve designation for Admiralty Head allows harvest of sea urchin and sea cucumber while protecting other species. In other action, the Commission approved a change in the designation for an underwater area off Sund Rock on Hood Canal from a marine protected area to a marine conservation area. The change will prohibit all fishing activity in the conservation area.

Following the recommendation of WDFW staff, the Commission did not act on two other proposals to create marine sanctuaries at Scatchet Head off Whidbey Island and Rosario Beach in the San Juan Islands. In the case of Scatchet Head, a boundary could not be determined that would be enforceable to boaters without radar or global positioning system (GPS) devices onboard. The Rosario Beach proposal was withdrawn pending further discussion between WDFW and local government, State Parks and commercial divers. For more information,
call (360) 902-2826.

You know where I stand, but I've got to say it regardless.

I sometimes wonder about the logic behind some of WDFW's MPA decisions. As the release says, "...In the case of Scatchet Head, a boundary could not be determined that would be enforceable to boaters without radar or global positioning system (GPS) devices onboard."

In other words, fish are endangered but the boundary is too hard to find or enforce so to hell with the fish.

But Zee's Reef is easy to find/enforce without a GPS. This taken directly from WAC 220-16-790: Zee's Reef Marine Preserve. "Zee's Reef Marine Preserve" is defined as waters and bedlands inside a line beginning at the extreme low water line on the northeast side of Fox Island at 47° 14.56' N, 122° 35.98' W, then 0.5 nautical mile northerly along the extreme low water line to 47° 14.96' N, 122° 36.37' W, then northeasterly 400 yards offshore to 47° 15.10' N, 122° 36.16' W, then southeasterly parallel to the extreme low water line to 47° 14.70' N, 122° 35.76' W, then southwesterly to the point of origin.

No that's really easy to find and enforce without a GPS on board, isn't it? Although I selfishly like the fact Zee's Reef remains fly fishing only and I certainly will continue to flyfish the area, its as I've mentioned to you before: I think there are other agendas behind creating MPAs that we are not fully aware of.

Arbitrary closures restricting angling opportunity in the name of conservation keeps coming to my mind. If there's basis in scientific fact to justify the action, close it. If its being done only to pander to someone's political "conservation" agenda just to say you're doing something, leave it. What's this too difficult to enforce B.S.?

I just can't blindly jump on the bandwagon; I remain skeptical.


As you likely know, I too am often skeptical of WDFW management decisions, and I only offered the news-item for what it was worth. I will say you're absolutely right; as is often the case, the Commission's decision qualified as neither fish nor fowl, and doesn't appear to have any internal logic (except allowing the low impact activity of salmon-flyfishing in an MPA designed to protect bottom-fish; we can probably thank VanGytenbeek for that). It's clear that they seem to think they can always have it coming and going, and are more interested in looking like they're doing something than actually doing anything.

I'm with you about blindly jumping on bandwagons, particularly if the decision is part of some kind of subterfuge. The only thing I will say is that for me, I have to recognize that almost all the "scientific facts" regarding fisheries are surrounded by a great deal of uncertainty, and I tend to want to give the resource the benefit of the doubt. That said, I don't know anything about the science of MPAs, and I know you've looked at it alot.

I realize you were the messenger and wasn't personalizing my response. Hope you didn't think I was.

As you said, "...low impact activity of salmon-flyfishing in an MPA designed to protect bottom-fish.." Logic would dictate salmon-flyfishing be allowed at all MPAs due to its low impact on bottom dwelling fish. But wait! It gets really good.

Look at the Colvos Passage MPA; doesn't allow salmon-flyfishing, but does allow salmon-trolling. Can't troll for salmon at Zee's Reef, but can at Colvos Passage. Can't flyfish for salmon at Colvos Passage, but can at Zee's reef. Both are established for the very same reason and by (literally) the very same people: to protect the bottom fish. Nothing like a little consistency, eh? I would like to think it was done intentionally to keep flyfishers and trollers out of each other's way, but somehow, I just don't believe that to be the case. I agree VanGytenbeek probably had a lot to do with the way Zee's Reef shook out.

I'm concerned about how MPAs are becoming the "in thing" in fishery conservation, especially when one considers nothing is being done about removing the "Ghost Nets" from the Sound. The number of abandoned nets in the Sound appear to be substantial and they continue to kill fish and wildlife for many years. Gee, I wonder if THEY might be contributing to the decline in bottom fish.

indians can still commercial harvest from them but the size of fish is much greater and more spawning happens on mpa's than anywhere else in puget sound. so they are trying to bring back the resource and closing off sections of abundant spawning habitat is a way to do it. fish any rocky habitat down current from a mpa and you'll see the differnce. orchard rocks has proved that to the light tackle c/r anglers who fish the area. Ben

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