The Coastal Conservation Association on Tuesday gained permission from the Oregon Secretary of State to launch a drive that would ultimately aim to have voters ban the use of gill nets in the state’s waters for the non-tribal, commercial harvest of fish.
The organization last week submitted the signatures of nearly 2,000 petition sponsors and the Secretary of State’s office validated as registered voters 1,600 of those signatures. That’s well above the 1,000-signature threshold needed to launch a petition process.
The state Attorney General’s office is scheduled to issue a preliminary ballot title by Tuesday, July 26. Then comments will be accepted on the proposed initiative and preliminary ballot title through Aug. 9.
Once the comment period ends, the Attorney General’s office will consider the comments and draft a final ballot title, and outline what it sees as the pros and cons of the proposed initiative.
After the final ballot title is produced, CCA’s petitioners would then seek the 87,213 signatures needed to get the proposal on the November 2012 general election ballot. The petition drive will likely begin just after the New Year, according to Bryan Irwin, the CCA’s Pacific Northwest executive director. The CCA is a non-profit organization comprised of 17 coastal state chapters whose membership is comprised primarily recreational saltwater anglers.
The chief initiative petitioners are state Sens. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, and Rod Monroe, D-Portland and David Schamp, chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association's Oregon chapter board of directors.
The proposed Protect Our Salmon Act of 2012 says “the state still permits the use of commercial fishing nets that indiscriminately kill or injure large numbers of endangered wild salmon and other non-target fish and wildlife species.” The state’s freshwater commercial fishing occurs exclusively in the Columbia River.
The Columbia and its tributaries are home to 13 salmon and steelhead and salmon stocks that are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Commercial fisheries are co-managed by Oregon and Washington where the river represents the two states’ border. Irwin said his group would be pursuing options other than an initiative process in Washington, possibly working through that state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission, to gain a gill-net ban.
“Gillnets and tangle nets are specifically designed to snare fish by the gills or head and lead to the injury, suffocation and death of large numbers of endangered wild salmon and steelhead and other species that become entangled in the mesh,” the proposed initiative says.
The smaller mesh tangle nets have been required at times in recent years because they have been proven to have lesser post-release mortality rate than large-mesh gill nets. The tangle nets allow more unmarked salmon, which are likely to be of wild origin and ESA protected, to released back into the river.
The lower Columbia commercial harvest targets unprotected hatchery fish.
The petition encourages a switch to commercial gear such as seines and fish wheels, which are expected allow the release of unmarked fish with little post-release mortality.
The proposal seeks to revise state statutes to make it unlawful “to use a gillnet or tangle net to take salmon, steelhead, or other fish in the inland waters of the state of Oregon,” as well as “for a wholesaler, canner or buyer to buy or receive salmon, steelhead, or other fish taken by a gillnet or tangle net from the inland waters of the state of Oregon.”
The revisions to the state laws “do not apply to the use of gillnets or tangle nets pursuant to tribal fishing rights or salmon, steelhead or other fish taken by gillnet or tangle net pursuant to any tribal fishing rights in the inland waters of the state of Oregon,” the proposal says.
The proposed initiative says the 2012 Act would not affect:
“(1) The Columbia River Compact or fishing management agreements between the United States, Indian tribes and states.
“(2) Any tribal fishing rights, or the right to use any fishing gear in furtherance of tribal fishing rights, in the inland waters of Oregon.”
The proposal can be found at:
The Oregon initiative effort is the CCA’s second. The first was ended in December 2009 when the final ballot title issued by the Oregon AG’s office proved to be unsatisfactory to the CCA.
The initiative proposed for the 2010 ballot, and its preliminary ballot title, drew 130 pages of comments from a tribes, commercial fishers and others. Many called the proposal a de facto ban on all commercial fishing in the Columbia, largely because at the time a shift to selective gear seemed to be unfeasible and likely unaffordable. The final ballot title reflected those comments.
Since that time the state of Oregon and Washington, and the Colville Tribes, have been experimenting with selective commercial gear such as purse and beach seines and the results are promising, Irwin said.
“We decided to rewrite the initiative from scratch to address all of those concerns,” Irwin said.