The Oregon Elections Division this week announced a proposed ballot initiative aimed at banning commercial gill-net fishing in the state’s waters in the Columbia River and other inland areas will be up for voter judgment this fall.
The division said Tuesday that its verification of initiative signatures had been completed. A total of 138,067 signatures had been submitted by the Coastal Conservation Association, and 94,304 were judged to be valid signatures of registered voters. A total of 87,213 signatures of registered Oregon voters were needed to get the measure on the ballot. The valid signatures represented 68.3 percent of the total submitted.
Oregon voters will vote Nov. 6 on whether to approve the initiative.
Commercial fishing interests have vowed to campaign against the gill-net ban proposal.
“Ultimately, if this passes, the real losers are the consumers in Oregon,” said Hobe Ktyr of Salmon for All, an Astoria, Ore.,-based association of gill netters, fish buyers, processors and associated businesses. He said such a ban would eliminate access to fresh-caught, Columbia River salmon by Oregon’s non-fishing public.
The initiative does state that tribal commercial fishing, mostly carried out above the Columbia’s Bonneville Dam, would not be affected.
“The tribe never have enough to share,” particularly of the spring chinook salmon run, Kytr said. Most of the spring fish caught by four tribes are needed for ceremonial and subsistence purposes.
If the measure is approved in November, commercial fishing interests could well challenge it in court, Kytr said. A ban would represent a “taking” of the fishermen’s right to make a living, which is illegal under the Oregon Constitution, he said.
The approved ballot title is as follows:
Prohibits commercial non-tribal fishing with gillnets in Oregon "inland waters," allows use of seine nets.
Result of “Yes” Vote: “Yes” vote changes commercial non-tribal fishing in Oregon “inland waters” (defined) by banning gillnets, adopting other regulatory changes; recreational salmon fishers ensured their recent share.
Result of “No” Vote: “No” vote continues current commercial fishing practices, retains laws allowing gillnets, leaves other current regulations in place; continues annual adjustment of recreational salmon harvest share.
“Summary: Current law allows commercial salmon fishing in Columbia River only with gillnets; requires recreational salmon fishers’ percentage share of overall salmon catch to be readjusted annually; allows issuing of gillnet permits within limit of 200; recognizes gillnet licenses as valid in Columbia River in both Oregon and Washington waters.
“Measure bans commercial gillnet fishing by non-tribal fishers in Oregon “inland waters” (defined); requires Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to permit use of “seine nets” (defined) instead; ensures that recreational salmon fishers’ percentage of overall salmon catch remains at 2007-2011 levels; prohibits purchase of salmon caught by gillnet by non-tribal fishers in Oregon inland waters; prohibits issuing of additional gillnet permits; repeals statute recognizing validity of gillnet licenses in Oregon and Washington waters.”
The proposal defines Oregon inland waters as waters within the state’s boundaries that “lie east of a line drawn between the ends of jetties and/or shorelines at high tide at the mouths of rivers and streams except the Columbia River where they lie east of a line drawn between the knuckle of the south jetty and the in-shore end of the north jetty.
The proposal was submitted to the state Elections Division July 18, 2011, by the CCA, a non-profit organization made up in large part of recreational saltwater anglers. Chief petitioners are state Sens. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, and Rod Monroe, D-Portland and Schamp, chairman of the Oregon CCA chapter’s board of directors.