The Stop Gillnets Now Coalition and the Coastal Conservation Association announced Monday that they would end their campaign in support of Oregon ballot measure 81 and instead focus on efforts to assure approval of a plan outlined by Gov. John Kitzhaber to end non-tribal commercial gill-net fishing for salmon in the Columbia River.
“As of today, we will shift our efforts toward supporting the governor’s plan and the commission’s work to implement this new policy,” according to a press release issued Monday by gill-net ban proponents.
An initiative led by CCA this summer gained, through a voter signature collection process, access to the Oregon Nov. 6 general election ballot. Oregon Initiative 81 would change state law to ban the use of gill net and tangle net gear by non-tribal fishers in all Oregon inland waters. The statute change would affect commercial fishing in the lower Columbia River (the area downstream of Bonneville Dam), and the sale of salmon caught there, waters under Oregon’s jurisdiction. The states of Oregon and Washington for the most part share fishery management on the Columbia mainstem where the river makes up the Oregon-Washington border.
The gill-net ban initiative would allow for the commercial use of fixed gear and seines. Such gear is believed to allow the selective harvest of hatchery produced fish, which are marked with fin clips before their release, and the safe release of unmarked wild fish. A total of 13 Columbia-Snake salmon and steelhead species are listed under the federal Endangered Species. Efforts in particular are made to limit harvest and other impacts on naturally produced fish of those species.
Kitzhaber last month directed the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to trigger a process that would result in a more gradual end, as compared to the ballot measure, to non-Indian gill-net fishing on the Columbia mainstem. His proposal would, if enacted by the commission, transition over three years from non-tribal gill-net fishing in the lower Columbia to more benign gear; and concentrate gill-nets in off-channel areas where hatchery produced fish are the targets and where few wild fish roam.
The two states’ fish and wildlife commissions have agreed to work together to explore potential management options for such fisheries. Scheduled Sept. 21 is a meeting in Olympia of a work group composed of three members each from the states’ fish and wildlife commissions, ODFW and WDFW directors and senior staff and four advisers from each state representing fishing interests.
The goal is to produce a committee recommendation by the end of the year.
On Aug. 16, Stop Gillnets Now coalition, the group leading the Yes on Measure 81 campaign to end gillnetting in Oregon, announced its support for an alternative plan promoted by Kitzhaber. The group made clear at that time it would continue with the Yes on 81 campaign as it monitored the progress of the governor’s proposal before the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, which has directed the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to pursue a joint resolution of the issue with the state of Washington.
“The primary goal of Measure 81 is to restore the threatened and endangered native fish runs and protect wildlife by removing destructive gillnets from the Columbia River,” the coalition press release says. “The governor’s plan accomplishes this goal. While the governor’s plan is not perfect, and it requires all stakeholders to make some compromises, it will accomplish the historic shift of gillnets out of the main stem of the Columbia River.
“The Stop Gillnets Now coalition and Measure 81 were launched in response to this inactivity at commission and legislative levels. Now, thanks to Gov. Kitzhaber’s and the ODFW Commission’s leadership, we can adopt a new Columbia River management policy that will restore endangered native fish runs and protect wildlife while creating a sustainable commercial fishing industry.
“Beginning today, Stop Gillnets Now will cease all activities in support of Measure 81, including plans to engage in television or radio advertising in support of Measure 81.”
The coalition is urging its supporters to “stay involved and to direct their grassroots support toward the ODFW Commission and Governor Kitzhaber’s forward-thinking management plan. We intend to continue a public education campaign to increase awareness of gillnets in the Columbia River and to ensure the process of eliminating gillnets from the Columbia River is not thwarted or delayed.
Stop Gillnets Now is asking supporters to sign a petition calling for the OFWC to adopt Kitzhaber’s proposal.
More information can be found at:
“Gov. Kitzhaber has proposed eliminating gill nets from the lower Columbia River while allowing their use in off-channel sites like Young’s Bay,” the petition says. “The governor’s plan is a common-sense approach that balances economic vitality for both the commercial and sports fishing industries with conservation and protection of endangered native fish and marine mammals. We urge you to support the governor’s plan and act quickly to implement it.”