Fish & Wildlife | Ecotrope

Kitzhaber Aims To Move Gill Nets Off Columbia

Ecotrope | Aug. 10, 2012 3:11 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:30 p.m.

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Sportfishers have long criticized gillnets for catching wild fish along with the hatchery stocks they target. Gov. John Kitzhaber now wants to move gillnetters off the mainstem Columbia River and into off-channel areas where they are more likely to catch only hatchery fish.

Sportfishers have long criticized gillnets for catching wild fish along with the hatchery stocks they target. Gov. John Kitzhaber now wants to move gillnetters off the mainstem Columbia River and into off-channel areas where they are more likely to catch only hatchery fish.

The Oregonian reports on a letter from Gov. John Kitzhaber to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission in which he proposes moving non-tribal commercial gillnets off the Columbia River and into side-channel fishing areas.

You may have heard that there will be a measure on the ballot in November that asks voters to ban non-tribal gillnets in all Oregon waters – including the Columbia. The measure stems from ongoing conflicts between sport and commercial fishermen over catching salmon on the river.

The fight is long-running, complicated and intense. I wrote about it constantly as a reporter at The Daily Astorian, and I will revisit the topic later on the blog.

In his letter, the governor returns to a compromise proposed by sportfishers several years ago that would move gillnets off the mainstem Columbia River – instead of banning them altogether. Kitzhaber advocates for the alternative gear that can catch hatchery salmon with fewer impacts to wild fish. He also calls for funding a build-out of off-channel fishing areas such as Youngs Bay to make sure commercial gillnetters have enough fish to catch and enough space in which to catch them (that addresses a top complaint among gillnetters when the proposal to move them off-channel first came about).

In the letter, Kitzhaber takes an official position on gill nets: That they are not selective enough and don’t do enough to avoid killing wild fish:

“In a situation as complex as the lower Columbia, a long-term solution must prioritize selective gears and fishing techniques to minimize mortality of ESA-listed and non-target fish and optimize recovery,” he writes. “I believe the use of gill nets in non-tribal mainstem fisheries is inconsistent with this objective.”

However, he recognizes the need to keep non-tribal commercial fisheries alive:

“I also believe the long-term solution must enhance the economic vitality of both recreational and commercial fisheries, which provide the public with benefits including recreation, family-wage jobs and businesses, local commerce and export economies, nationally renowned culinary destinations, and the Pacific Northwest’s uniquely high quality of life and culture.”

 

The funding to expand off-channel areas for non-tribal commercial gillnetters will be a key component of Kitzhaber’s proposal. But I’m curious about how the governor’s proposal will play out if voters pass the ballot measure to ban gill nets. I suppose Oregon could still try to get money to expand off-channel fishing across the river in Washington state

 

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