State enacts gill net ban, lawsuit fires back

gill-netOregon Fish and Wildlife Commission approves ban on gillnetting in lower Columbia River
By Natural Resource Note

Last month, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 4-2 to ban gillnets from the lower Columbia River.  This month, Oregon gill-net fishing leaders petitioned the Court of Appeals to stop it.  They claim the ban violates several state laws.

This vote came after a prolonged struggle between commercial gillnet fishermen and sport fishermen. Earlier this year, sport fishermen and conservationists put forth Ballot Measure 81, which would have banned the use of commercial, nontribal gillnets in Oregon’s inland waters including Oregon’s section of the lower Columbia River.

Governor Kitzhaber came up with a plan in August to phase out gillnets in the main stream of the Columbia by 2017 but allow them in the off-channel areas such as Young’s Bay. Many Measure 81 advocates supported the Kitzhaber plan and dropped their efforts to pass the measure. The measure failed.

In September, Kitzhaber convened the Columbia River Fisheries Management Workgroup, consisting of three representatives from Oregon and three from Washington. They recommended a transition from gillnets to other fishing gear and an increase of fish hatchery production in off-channel safe areas to offset the loss of main stream fisheries.

The OFWC made some changes, but passed the plan supported by Kitzhaber and the Workgroup.

The plan will face opposition. Although off-channel safe areas are stocked with hatchery salmon, gillnetters say fishing in safe areas only won’t allow them an adequate harvest.

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