To review and comment on the proposal, visit the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's (WDFW) website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/flatfish/ . The public also can provide input at a meeting scheduled March 19 in Port Townsend.
Under the proposal, fishing for numerous species of flatfish would be allowed in waters shallower than 120 feet in Quilcene and Dabob bays, north of a line stretching east from Point Whitney to the Toandos Peninsula.
Fishing for a variety of species, including flatfish, has been closed in Hood Canal since 2004 to provide additional protection for fish populations that are susceptible to low-dissolved oxygen events, said Craig Burley, manager of WDFW's fish management division.
"Recent studies show that populations of flatfish have significantly increased in these bays over the last decade," Burley said. "So we're proposing a fishery in those areas that would allow for limited recreational opportunity while still ensuring we meet conservation objectives for those species."
The harvest of Pacific halibut, lingcod and other bottomfish, as well as forage fish, would be prohibited because of continuing conservation concerns for those species, said Burley.
For more than a decade, low dissolved-oxygen events throughout Hood Canal have caused significant die-offs of marine life, including multiple species of fish, shellfish and invertebrates.
Hood Canal is an underwater fjord where normal oxygen exchange in the water takes place slowly because of the canal's depth and shape. Nitrogen entering the water from human sources stimulates blooms of algae, which absorbs oxygen from the water as it decomposes. Under certain weather and wind conditions, the level of life-sustaining dissolved oxygen in the water drops so low that fish and other underwater species suffocate.
WDFW will discuss the proposal to open limited fishing opportunities for flatfish at a meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. March 19 in the Marina Room at the Point Hudson Marina, 130 Hudson Street, Port Townsend. During the meeting, the public can comment on the proposal.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission also will hear public testimony on the proposal during its April 9-10 meeting in Olympia. For the specific day and time, check the commission's website: http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/ .
The commission, which sets policy for WDFW, is expected to take action on the proposal at its meeting in June.