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Change pinches commercial crabbers

New rules shift the balance of Puget Sound’s annual crab take toward recreational fisherman.

“It’s a very big deal,” said Brian Allison, an Oak Harbor resident and president of the Puget Sound Crab Association. “It’s basically the difference between a viable commercial industry and one that’s not.”

Yet those representing recreational interests see the change in a different light. They chalk up the new rules as not only a big win for the people of Washington, but one that is long overdue.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Bryan Irwin, executive director for the Coastal Conservation Association’s northwest region. “Arguably, it doesn’t go far enough to give recreational fisherman their fair share but it was the best of the options and we are pleased with the decision.”

On Oct. 1, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved policy changes that will eliminate current catch quotas for recreational crabbers and replace them with a fixed season that will run five days a week, from July to Labor Day, and seven days a week during the winter months, from October through December. A five-crab-a-day per person limit will be in effect for both seasons.

Miranda Wecker, chair of the nine-member commission, said the rule change has been coming for several years. Commercial fishermen have long received the bulk of the state’s fixed crab quota and a spike in the number of recreational crabbers in recent years made it evident that it was time for a change.

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