Proposal Would Curb
by Joseph Frazier, Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. - Proposed legislation that would curb gillnetting on the lower Columbia River is picking at a sore point that has divided commercial and sport fishermen on the river for decades.
Backers say it is a win-win deal for sports and commercial fishermen. Some gillnetters say they wonder if they'll stay in business if it passes.
Gillnetting involves using long nets spread across the river to ensnare fish. Sport fishermen can't use it, and it's the only legal form of commercial fishing on the river.
One bill would ban it on the main river below Bonneville Dam and move it into predetermined zones such as tributaries to increase the take of hatchery fish over federally protected species.
Another would ban nets on the river entirely (bluefish adds: for non-tribal fisheries).
With Washington not bound by Oregon laws, the potential effect of the bills is not clear. Pat Patillo of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said Thursday it could be "just a mess."
Consistent regulations, he said, is a goal of a fisheries compact between the states. While there are allocations between the sports and commercial fisheries, he said there are none between the states, so Washington fishermen probably could take fish no longer available to their Oregon counterparts.
Astoria resident Bruce Buckmaster, former owner of a fish food plant and a member of the commercial fishing group Salmon For All, told the Daily Astorian that the bill asks gillnetters to give up long-standing rights without an equivalent sacrifice from sport-fishers.
State Rep. Scott Bruun, R-West Linn, a sponsor of the bill, said Thursday that the practices of the past century are unsustainable. "If we don't do this we lose gillnetting," he said.
Bruun said gillnetting does not differentiate among hatchery fish, wild, protected species, and sturgeon.
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