New fishing regulations planned for rockfish species

By Marilee Enge
San Jose Mercury News

Widespread restrictions on catching the dwindling species of fish known on menus as snapper will continue next year with new regulations that fisheries managers hope will keep West Coast fishermen on the water.

Fishing for certain species of rockfish will be closed across a broad swath of the Pacific Coast, sending many who fish for a living in search of new methods and new types of fish to harvest.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council, meeting in Portland this week, is set to vote today on the 2003 regulations for groundfish -- which include rockfish and other species -- and observers say their action will underscore how dire the situation is for one of California's mainstay fisheries. The council is a federal body that reports to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Fishing for three types of rockfish -- bocaccio, canary and yelloweye -- was severely restricted earlier this summer after managers said their populations were smaller than previously believed. Bocaccio stocks are between 3 and 5 percent of their historic numbers, and new research shows the situation may be even more dire because the species is not reproducing.

Managers are grappling with the thorny problem of how to allow fishing on some groundfish species while protecting the ones that have been hardest hit. ``There will be major closures,'' said Glen Spain, northwest regional director for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. ``It'll be 90 to 95 percent of the fleet out of the water. We hope we can have a few little bubble fisheries.''