Columbia River Salmon Fishing Reform
by Mark Yuasa
Some of the most far-reaching sport and commercial salmon fishing reforms were approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife commission to begin this season along the Lower Columbia River.
The nine-member state Fish and Wildlife commission panel – a citizen panel appointed by the governor – voted 7-2 in favor of the policy that includes a four-year transition period with full implementation planned for 2017 with time for modifications.
While given the green light by Washington it still needs approval by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife commission, and there is buzz spreading around that they might not be riding on the same path as Washington.
The new ruling favors sport anglers who will see a bump in the fall chinook share from 70 to 75 percent over the next two years, before increasing to 80 percent in 2019. The original policy had an allocation increase to 80 percent in 2017.
On the commercial fishing end it would allow a Columbia River mainstem gillnet fishery for upriver bright fall chinook above the confluence of Lewis River from Woodland to Beacon Rock in 2017 and 2018, and would require additional monitoring. Gillnet fishing would also come to an end on the river's mainstem during spring and summer.
Gillnets would be restricted to off-channel fishing zones near Astoria like Youngs Bay, and would require live-capture methods -- such as purse seines and beach seines -- designed to harvest hatchery stocks and release wild fish by 2019.
Commercial gillnet fishing has been an issue and denounced by sport anglers on the Columbia. Their belief is that virtually any fish caught are killed with a very slim survival rate.
Commercial fishermen also have strongly voiced their opinion saying alternative fishing with purse and beach seines are costly, have a negative effect while fishing along side nearby sport anglers, limits the number of boats on the water and alterative commercial gear also puts fish at risk of survival.
The commission also looked to offer a "buyback program" for commercial gillnet licenses.
One of the difficulties in a commercial fishery directed toward summer chinook is that summer steelhead and sockeye are protected under the Endangered Species Act. The reform also protects weak wild salmon stocks in Lower Columbia tributaries.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife commission plans address the policy in a meeting on Friday.
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