The harvest specifications and season structure for groundfish in ocean waters had earlier been set by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. The Commission adopted concurrent regulations for commercial and recreational groundfish fisheries in Oregon and state harvest levels for commercial and recreational nearshore fisheries. (The nearshore fishery extends from the shoreline out three miles.)
The Commission also adopted two changes to the sport groundfish seasons for 2012 that are aimed at providing more predictable seasons and reducing the number of early season closures. The first restricts the harvest of groundfish to waters less than 30 fathoms from April to September. In the past, the groundfish fishery was restricted to less than 40 fathoms from April to September in order to reduce impacts on yelloweye rockfish. The second change closes the cabezon season during the winter months of January through March and October through December.
A third change to the sport groundfish fishery regulations implements two in-season management lines, one at Cape Lookout and one at Cape Blanco. In the event that in-season action is needed in the fishery to reduce impacts to yelloweye rockfish, these lines may be used to provide relief to areas on the coast that are disproportionately impacted by depth restrictions.
The Commission approved rule changes that will clarify and simplify the submission of commercial fish tickets, which are used to verify the species and weight of commercially harvested fish.
The Commission approved $378,732 in funding for five restoration and eight enhancement projects recommended by the Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program and $107,178 for three projects recommended by the Access and Habitat Program. The Commission also re-appointed two members of the Access and Habitat Board – Ron Borisch of Keizer and Barry DelCurto or Halfway. The A and H program funds projects that open private land to hunting or improve wildlife habitat.
The Commission approved the transfer of the former site of the Butte Falls Hatchery to the Butte Falls School District. The hatchery was closed in the 2009-11 biennium and the raceways have been removed. ODFW will transfer the three acres of property still under state ownership to the district, which plans to develop an environmental education center on the property.
Finally, the Commission denied a citizen petition that would have liberalized the Landowner Preference Program to include parcels smaller than 40 acres. This program provides big game tags to landowners that don’t draw a tag through the controlled hunt process. Several Commission members preferred to consider any changes to the program during a planned review in 2014.
The Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in Oregon. It generally meets monthly. The next scheduled meeting is Jan. 6 in Salem.