Oregon Gillnetters Granted Reprieveby Bill Rudolph
NW Fishletter, February 12, 2013
The Oregon State Court of Appeals has granted a motion by a commercial gillnet group that will maintain the current harvest regime while the court reviews a petition from the fishermen that argues the state's recent reallocation of salmon catches between the sport and commercial sectors in the lower Columbia River is illegal, a process that could take months.
"Petitioners have made a prima facie showing that irreparable harm will result to themselves and others unless enforcement of the administrative rules is stayed pending judicial review," said the Feb. 11 ruling from appellate commissioner James Nass. "They have also made a prima facie showing a substantial likelihood of prevailing on judicial review," he added. Neither ODFW nor any sportfishing group moved to intervene and oppose the motion, the judge noted.
The gillnetters' Jan. 4 petition said the commission approved a rule change that conflicts with an existing state law forbidding the use of seine nets. The new fishing regime calls for more selective fishing methods by commercial fishermen, such as the use of purse seines to reduce impacts on weak wild stocks.
They argued that seines are still illegal. "ODFW has no authority to permit by rule that which has been prohibited by statute," the petition said.
The petition also said the state's fiscal analysis' assumption that seining would be allowed would boost the value of the commercial fishery by 5 percent in 2013. But when the value of lower river hatchery Chinook and coho no longer caught by gillnetting in the mainstem is subtracted, the result would be a 3-percent decline from current value. And when the analysis is carried out to 2017, when the transition period ends, subtracting the value of the seine fisheries would mean a 33-percent decrease from present values.
Since the new rules would decrease the gillnetters' allocation of ESA-impacts and harvestable surplus--down to 20 percent in most cases--"such allocations do not provide optimum commercial benefits nor are they equitable," the petition said. "The reallocations provide the recreational fisheries with a larger share of the harvest; they are not a tool for conservation nor were they intended to promote conservation. They were intended to, and do, benefit recreational fisheries at the expense of commercial fisheries and related businesses."
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