by Bill Rudolph
Last week, proposed legislation in Oregon died that would have pushed commercial gillnetters out of the mainstem Columbia. It failed to move out of committee by the April 27 cut-off date.
The proposal was pushed hard by the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association and included their plan developed last year which called for increasing gillnet catches by boosting the so-called SAFE fisheries, now funded mostly by BPA, that raised hatchery fish in netpens out of the mainstem to allow harvest with fewer impacts on ESA-listed fish.
The NSFIA said their plan would boost hatchery production in the lower Columbia, but commercials said there was little evidence that the area was amenable to such increases. A study by WDFW had backed them up (see NW Fishletter 253).
The plan doesn't jibe with a recent review of Columbia Basin hatcheries that recommended less production in the lower Columbia to reduce adverse impacts from straying hatchery fish on the spawning grounds of ESA-listed fall chinook.
The change would likely have boosted the sport catch of chinook because of reduced ESA impacts by the commercial gillnetters, which share non-Indian impacts with the recreational fishery.
Last year, the sportfishing industry group walked out on a task force set up to settle a long-running allocation dispute between non-Indian harvesters because their so-called SAFE for Salmon plan was not adopted.
If another proposed bill becomes law, it looks as if another windy task force (complete with mediator) will pick up where the old one (produced by the fish and wildlife commissions of the two states) left off.
The new task force language was added to another bill, originally sponsored by the Coastal Conservation Association. But it was gutted of its language calling for the use of more selective commercial fishing gear like purse seines and stuffed with new wording that would create yet another task force made up of sporties, and commercials, with added representation from legislators, tribes, the federal government, conservation groups, and ODFW.
The task force duties call for making recommendations to boost recreational and commercial fishing opportunities and suggest fishing gear "that may enhance commercial fisheries and provide additional access to hatchery salmon."
Yet another bill, introduced by Oregon state senator Fred Girod (R-Lyons) calls for outlawing gillnetting in the state. It hasn't made it out of committee yet. Other joint measures call for controlling salmon predators like sea lions and birds, and spending more on research to improve hatchery operations.
Girod also sponsored a resolution that calls for more policing of foreign fleets off the Oregon coast. In a February press release, Girod said the coast needed to be more aggressive about limiting foreign fishing in Oregon waters. Republican spokesman Michael Gay told NW Fishletter that the Coast Guard needs to step up enforcement to keep foreign net fishermen and tuna boats from catching US salmon.
But Girod's concern may be misplaced. It has been years since any high seas gillnetters have been nabbed for illegal fishing. In 2007, a 120-foot Chinese gillnetter was caught fishing 500 miles east of Japan with a hold full of shark and swordfish.
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