Tiger, China and Canary Rockfish: protecting viewing opportunities, comments needed

Images: 
sm TigerRF_2453.jpg
sm ChinaRF_2233.jpg

There are only a few days left in the public comment period for the
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary's management plan review
process. The comment period ends on Friday, November 14, 2008.

Please consider submitting comments similar to:

That
portion of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary within the
Strait of Juan De Fuca is the only portion of the Sanctuary that is
easily accessible by scuba divers. This is one of the few places in all
of Washington State that scuba divers have a significant possibility of
encountering Tiger Rockfish, China Rockfish, Canary Rockfish and other
long-lived rockfish species while diving.

Please manage this
portion of the Sanctuary from a "Watchable Wildlife" perspective so
that scuba divers from around the state, nation and world have a place
within Washington where these long-lived rockfish species can be seen
and photographed.

Comments can be submitted via mail, e-mail or fax to:

Email: ocnmsmanagementplan@noaa.gov

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I am a member of
the Pacific Northwest Advanced Assessment Team for REEF.   I
was selected to participate in a week long assessment of fish populations in
the area between Neah Bay and Tatoosh Island this past August.  The team of 8 divers spent 5 days conducting
boat dives in this area.  I dove two or
three sites per day for 5 days.

During the entire 5 day/13 dive site survey effort I
detected a total of two Tiger Rockfish, 3 China Rockfish and 2 Canary Rockfish.

This is in strong contrast to the rockfish populations
detected in this area only 6 years ago. 
This is an excerpt from a website describing one of the dive sites we
surveyed this year, written back in 2002:

“So
what did we find at this site? Tons of critters to keep us entertained. The most
noticeable of which were dozens of beautiful cream and
black striped Tiger Rockfish accented in
red that use the countless hideouts on the reef to their advantage. As no one
knows the name of this ridge, I aptly refer to it as Tiger Ridge. … But the shy
Tiger rockfish weren't the only attraction. … I usually have no problem
identifying at least eight species of rockfish when diving here. In addition to the Tiger Rockfish, we always encounter
brilliant yellow and black China Rockfish that have taken up
sentry position through many portions of the reef, and both Quillback
and Copper
Rockfish
hovering in current dead-spots. Huge schools of Black and Blue
Rockfish
are a certainty. Yellowtail
Rockfish
can sometimes be found schooling, and more often in isolation
hiding in a crack or crevice. On every dive here so
far, I have also encountered the always spectacular orange and white Canary Rockfish (a protected
species) along this reef. Is usually find Canary Rockfish swimming just off the
bottom at the base of the ridge in small, loosely organized schools. I
feel as though I could dive this site every day. In fact, when I visit Neah
Bay, I do dive it every day!”     http://www.seaotter.com/marine/html/tiger.html

What a contrast to what is there today, only 6 years
later.  Two Tiger Rockfish.  Not the dozens he detected.  One China rockfish, not the many encountered
only six years earlier. Very few Copper, Quillback and Yellowtail Rockfish.

In 5 days of surveys in the area Neah Bay to Tatoosh Island
I detected a TOTAL of 2 Tiger Rockfish, 3 China Rockfish and 2 Canary Rockfish.

What has happened? With a reduction in fishing for Salmon, the fishing regulations in the National Marine Sanctuary now allow sportfishing for rockfish all year long, 10 fish per person per day, no minimum size.  In just a couple of years there has been a drastic impact on our local populations.

Considering the long lives of individual rockfish of these
species, their rates of reproduction and survival are quite low. The rates of
take allowed  should be less than replacement rate for each population.
Furthermore, rebuilding these populations to their levels of just 6 years ago,
even if human predation were stopped, will take a long time.

Permitting and encouraging excessive take of a
slow-reproducing species based on the state sportfishing regulations makes no
sense whatever.  I believe the logic was
to transfer some of the fishing pressure off of salmon and on to these species,
but that makes no biological or wildlife management sense.  These fish are simply being sacrificed, and
after they are gone, fisheries managers will be faced with the same problem.

teamwork

Thanks Janna.

 Teamwork for the win!  The more people who submit comments, the more likely things will change for the better!

OCNMS comments given

Thanks for posting this, David. As a member of the REEF PNW AAT who's been surveying this area of OCNMS for the past 6 years, I've personally noticed a disturbing trend towards lower fish populations. We began surveying there in 2003. I look at my own personal data from 6 years ago and there are clear trends downward in just a few short years.

I sent a letter to the OCNMS scoping team as well and I hope they'll listen.

Janna Nichols
Washington State
PADI Instructor
REEF Marine ID Instructor
www.pnwscuba.com
Seen any cool critters lately?

><((((°>

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