Oregon Gillnetters Survive Ballot Measure,
by Bill Rudolph
Oregon voters last week overwhelmingly voted to keep lower Columbia gillnetters on the water, defeating Measure 81 on a 66-34 percentage margin.
The election went pretty much as expected--the original backers of the proposed net ban dropped their support of the measure, which they authored, to embrace a proposal Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber introduced to help defuse the harvest war between sports and commercial fishermen.
Recreational fishing supporters, led by the Coastal Conservation Association, spent profusely to gain enough signatures to put the initiative on the ballot, including a single donation of more than $500,000.
It was reported that commercial fishing supporters spent around $1 million, mostly from seafood companies, to counter the initiative once it made the ballot. Before the election, even tribal fishers stood with the lower Columbia gillnetters. "This ballot measure is just an allocation fight in the lower river, but it also distracts from the goal of developing healthy and sustainable salmon populations throughout the Columbia River Basin," said N. Kathryn Brigham, chairwoman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
Now the lower Columbia gillnetters are fighting Gov. Kitzhaber's proposal, which is based on a proposal developed by the Oregon-based Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. It is designed to move the commercial fishermen out of the mainstem to reduce impacts to ESA-listed fish. Commercial harvesters would concentrate on fish returning to net pens outside the mainstem, and the states would boost fish production to make up for economic losses from losing springtime fishing opportunity. But so far, no one has discussed who will pay for it. BPA has said it will not fund its share after 2016.
Both Washington and Oregon agency folks are working together to see if Kitzhaber's proposal--which has a target date of 2016 for implementation--is feasible. Judging from public comments at a WDFW hearing on Nov. 8, commercial fishermen don't like the Oregon governor's proposal. They say it's not based on any science, but is strictly an allocation grab by the sportfishing sector. The CRITFC tribes agree with them.
WDFW head Phil Anderson said that any restructuring of the fishery must include jointly developed conservation objectives, respect treaty Indian fishing rights and provide for close coordination with tribal fishery managers, and provide for shared hatchery production goals.
The restructuring must also ensure the two states continue to have reciprocal regulations and concurrent enforcement authority, and contain harvest management objectives for both commercial and recreational fisheries, recognizing their economic importance to both states, Anderson said.
2011 FCRPS BiOp Report
2012 draft Comparative Survival Study
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