Tribal Gillnetters Beginby Wil Phinney
A three-day fishing season for tribal gill netters opened Thursday morning and will end at 6 p.m. Saturday.
The Columbia River Compact of Oregon and Washington, which regulates mainstem commercial fisheries, agreed April 23 to allow four Columbia River Basin treaty tribes (Yakama, Warm Springs, Umatilla and Nez Perce) to open commercial sales of spring chinook, coho, steelhead, walleye, carp and shad.
The proposal, initiated by the Yakamas, was not without controversy.
The Yakamas proposed the fishery before the Nez Perce had completed ceremonial and subsistence fishing, prompting some wrangling among tribal leaders who held a long conference call on Wednesday to negotiate terms. The Yakama, Umatilla and Warm Springs tribes had finished their ceremonial and subsistence fishing and earlier this month distributed fish to tribal members and celebrated the new season with feasts at Rock Creek, Mission and Celilo.
Gill netters from all four tribes began fishing on Thursday morning in Zone 6, a 150-mile stretch of the Columbia River between Bonneville Dam and McNary Dam.
Commercial sales will be open through the season ending at 6 p.m. Saturday. However, sales of platform (hoopnet and dipnet) and hook-and-line caught fish, which also began Thursday morning, will continue until 6 p.m. on May 31.
The tribes want to benefit from a projected return of 193,000 spring chinook to the Columbia River.
Spring chinook are considered the most prized because of their high fat and oil content. As a staple of the tribal diet for thousands of years, salmon are receiving increased attention as one of the healthiest foods available. Recent studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association cite clear links between fish oils found in species like salmon and reduced rates of heart disease. Salmon contain high amounts of omega-3 oils.
Over-the-bank sales help tribal fishers support their families and make it possible to continue their traditional livelihood. Prosperous fisheries also have broader local and regional economic benefits. The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission estimates that for every $10 generated by fish sales, as much as $7 is contributed to local economies.
Tribal sellers can be found at various locations between Bonneville and McNary dams. Major sales locations include the Marine Park at Cascade Locks, Lone Pine at The Dalles and the boat launch near Roosevelt, Washington. Buyers should bring ice and coolers to keep fish fresh. Sales are cash only.
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