By BILL LUNDQUIST
PORT ORFORD Curry County fishermen gave a lukewarm response Tuesday night to a state plan to reduce the nearshore fleet by at least 50 percent.
Jim Golden, from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Marine Resources Program in Newport, came to Port Orford to hear what fishermen thought about a proposed interim nearshore management plan.
About 50 fishermen spent three hours telling Golden exactly what they thought. In the end, the majority grudgingly endorsed a state plan to add 33 species of nearshore finfish to the Developmental Fishery Program. They also agreed to restrictions that would reduce the fleet size by 51 percent.
Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach, also attended the meeting and announced he would be introducing a fleet-reduction bill in the Legislature.
"It's like herding chickens with a broom," he said. "You can't include everyone (in the fishery)."
"Some of you will get cut out," said Krieger. "Some of you are gonna love me and some hate me, but I'd rather have that than have the fishery fished out so the people in the community can't make a living."
Curry County Commissioner Lucie La Bont felt both approaches should be pursued in case one of them fails.
La Bont said she had spoken with Louise Solliday, the governor's natural resources director, that day.
She said the Kitzhaber administration may be willing to put the proposed establishment of marine reserve areas in state waters on hold until harvest cutbacks and fleet reductions in the groundfish industry are resolved.
Golden said he had met with fishermen several times in the past year about their concerns over the rapid growth in the live-fish fishery.
Several species of greenling, rockfish and surfperch are caught within the three-mile limit of state waters and delivered live to Asian restaurants in California.
A cap on the fishery in California has pushed fishermen from that state into Oregon. Golden said 18 new boats entered the Oregon live-fish fishery in January and February. He said about 100 boats are landing live fish in Oregon now.
In November, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted July 1, 2001, as a control date for future limited entry programs affecting nearshore fisheries. No one entering the fishery after that date would be eligible for permits.
The proposed plan would place 33 marine finfish species under the Category A list within the Developmental Fisheries Program.
A management program would be created and a limited number of nontransferable permits would be issued to harvesters who had made live fish landings between Jan. 1, 1997, and July 1, 2001.
Golden said the first thing he needed to know was whether or not the fishermen thought the 33 species should be added to Category A of the Developmental Fisheries program. If not, he said, he had nothing to take to the fish and wildlife commission.
Brookings commercial fisherman Pete McHenry said it was either that or lose the fishery anyway and get cut off.
Golden said there is almost no data on the 33 species. He said that could be obtained under the Developmental Fisheries Program even while the species are being fished.
He said the alternative is to do nothing, get no information, and continue to fish on the species until the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) tackles the problem in five or six years.
A solid majority of the fishermen agreed the fishery could not stand five more years of unrestricted growth.
Golden also asked which of three options the fishermen preferred to decide who could remain in the live-fish fishery.
He said the PFMC groundfish strategic plan calls for a reduction of more than 50 percent in fishing capacity.
Option A in the live-fish fishery harvest management plan would include all boats that landed any live fish between Jan. 1, 1997, and July 1, 2001. About 185 boats would qualify under the option. The fleet would not be reduced at all.
Option B would limit the fishery to boats that landed at least 500 pounds of live fish in any calendar year during the same time period. About 90 vessels would qualify, reducing the fleet by 51 percent.
Option C would limit the fishery to boats that landed 1,000 pounds of live fish during any calendar year within that time period. About 74 vessels would qualify, reducing the fleet by 60 percent.
Some fishermen preferred each of the three options, but a small majority went for Option B.
They said the PFMC wanted the fleet reduced by 50 percent, and Option B would accomplish that.
Others, however, argued that basing the requirements on the landing of live fish was flawed.
Golden said most of the 33 species had been landed as live fish, but some fishermen said that wasn't true.
They said many fishermen who had been fishing the area for decades had landed the same species, but not as live fish.
They said it wasn't fair that someone who had landed the species as live fish for a year should stay in the fishery, while someone who fished for the same species for 30 years should be shut out.
Golden said the live-fish fishery was the best proxy the department could find for the 33 species.
He said landing tickets had not broken the fish down as individual species in the past.
Fishermen also protested a proposal to allocate live-fish permits by area. Most of the commercial permits would be given south of Heceta Head, while the north would be largely reserved for recreation. Golden said the proposal would prevent fishing effort from shifting to the north.
The fishermen said that was exactly their point. They said harvest cuts and marine reserves could close off the south to them, and they would need to go north.
They also said confining the commercial fishery to the south would put more, not less, pressure on the live-fish fishery.
Another proposal would allow fishermen to land up to 50 pounds of live fish as incidental bycatch, as long as it did not make up more than 75 percent of the total catch.
Some fishermen said that would cause live fish to be targeted in addition to the regular catch. Others said there had to be some bycatch allowed.