The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Federal regulators banned commercial trawling off much of Washington, Oregon and California in an effort to avoid the decimation of several bottom fish species.
The action taken by the Pacific Fishery Management Council late Friday is the strictest regulation ever of West Coast fishing -- and comes as coastal economies are hobbled by restrictions on logging and salmon fishing.
"It's pretty scary for everybody involved. The potential impacts for every fishing industry up and down the coast are pretty severe. It's like we are cutting off our arm to save our life," said Steven Kupillas, groundfish observer liaison with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Sport and commercial fisheries generated $1 billion in income for the West Coast in 2001. Commercial landings were worth nearly $230 million, of which $62 million came from groundfish -- species that usually dwell at or near the ocean floor.
Groundfish include more than 80 species, many of which have healthy populations.
The cutbacks were precipitated by scientific findings that four species of rockfish -- a staple of party fishing boats and fish markets, where they are often sold as red snapper -- were in worse trouble than previously believed. The species are bocaccio, yellow-eye, canary and dark blotched rockfish.
For commercial bottom trawlers north of Cape Mendocino on the Northern California coast, the council banned fishing between depths of 600 feet and 1,500 feet. During the summer, the inshore boundary will move to 450 feet. South of Cape Mendocino, the council banned commercial trawling between the depths of 360 feet and 1500 feet. In the winter months, trawling is banned between depths of 300 and 900 feet.