Ban on shrimp fishing enacted for inland waters

EVERETT — Kevin Nihart made a living by fishing for spot shrimp in the waters of Possession Sound and selling his harvest off the dock near Anthony’s HomePort restaurant.

He won’t be able to do it this year, however.

The state Fish and Wildlife Commission decided in December to ban commercial shrimpers in the inland marine waters south from Deception Pass and Port Townsend, including all of Puget Sound. The idea is aimed to boost sport fishing in more urban areas of the state. Spot shrimp is a prawnlike shellfish found from California to Alaska.

For Nihart, it’s a tough loss for his business and he says it’s a sad loss for his many faithful customers, who bought from him off the docks in Everett, Mukilteo and Edmonds.

Now Nihart, who lives in Anacortes, can commercially fish for spot shrimp only in the marine waters around the San Juan Islands and in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the availability in the San Juans is limited.

“Fishing near Everett was how I made my living,” Nihart said. “I can’t afford to run my boat from the straits to the dock in Everett or even truck my shrimp in for the Everett Farmers Market. A lot of people I sold to are going to be disappointed. I feel bad for my customers.”

Only a small group of people actually shrimp commercially in the waters off Washington. The state licensed just 18 commercial shrimp fishermen last season and only two, including Nihart, harvested spot shrimp in Puget Sound, said department biologist Mark O’Toole.

It used to be that the Port Susan, Possession Sound and Puget Sound spot shrimp harvest was divided, 60 percent to recreational fishermen and 40 percent to commercial boats. The spot shrimp season begins in late spring. Nihart is a long-line fisherman who uses shrimp traps on his lines. Recreational shrimp fishermen use traps similar to crab pots.

Nihart sold spot shrimp at the Everett Farmers Market for the past four years and for the past six years on the dock below Anthony’s HomePort restaurant off Marine View Drive.

Joe Verdoes, president of the Puget Sound Shrimp Association, testified in September before the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, asking that commercial fishing of spot shrimp be allowed to continue in the Puget Sound region.

“This change makes it very difficult for guys like Kevin,” Verdoes said.

The state is encouraging commercial fishing in the strait because it is more of a sustainable resource there, O’Toole said.

“This is particularly hard on Kevin, and we know people in Everett, Mukilteo and Edmonds are going to miss being able to buy fresh prawns from him off the dock,” O’Toole said.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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