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New net reduces accidental catch.

Byline: Winston Ross The Register-Guard

FLORENCE - There's a new way to catch groundfish on the Oregon Coast.

And if all goes as planned, it could put more money in fishermen's pockets and leave more overfished stock in the sea.

For the past several years, government regulators have closed off the nearshore groundfishery to bottom trawlers, because of declining rockfish and whiting species.

There are still plenty of other groundfish out there, but fishermen have been unable to land them without roping in the overfished stocks. Now, thanks to a new kind of net, that problem may be solvable.

Traditional nets have a top rope and a bottom rope, and they're dragged along the ocean bottom, scooping up groundfish. On the West Coast, trawlers use nets with a top rope that extends past the foot rope, so it traps those fish that would swim up and out of the net and escape - namely, rockfish and whiting.

Now that those species are in decline, fishery managers say, a shorter top rope should be used, one that allows rockfish and whiting to get out. Fishermen can then focus on bottomfish and sole. In experiments comparing the two styles, fishermen found that the new net reduced accidental catch by 50 percent to 75 percent in some species.

"The fishermen I've talked with were real excited about how well it's working," said Stephen Theberge, a fisheries specialist with Oregon State University's Sea Grant extension program. The program will sponsor three workshops next week, in Warrenton, Newport and Charleston, to introduce the new trawl gear.

On Jan. 1, the government will reopen the nearshore fishery only to boats equipped with the new nets, which cost anywhere from $6,000 to $12,000.

Lincoln County Commissioner Terry Thompson, a former groundfisherman, called that a worthwhile investment.

"They'll be able to get back into the shallower water, where some of the more productive, high-price fish are," he said.

Winston Ross can be reached at (541) 902-9030 or rgcoast@ oregonfast.net.

FISHING GEAR

Oregon State University's Sea Grant extension program is sponsoring workshops around the state to introduce new trawl gear to the Oregon fishing fleet.

In Warrenton: From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 15 at Doogers Restaurant, 103 S. Highway 101.

In Newport: From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 16 at Englund Marine, 424 S.W. Bay Blvd.

In Charleston: From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 17 at Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (dining room,) 63466 Boat Basin Road.
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Title Annotation:Environment; Oregon coastal fishery managers say a shorter top rope could be more profitable and leave more overfished stock in the sea
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 8, 2004
Words:420
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