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Oregon Harvest Reforms Differ From Washington In How Much Gillnetting Allowed
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2017 (PST)

Less than one week after the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted changes to its Columbia River Fisheries Reform policy that reduced the time commercial gillnetting would be allowed on the lower river, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted changes to its own policy – and the states’ policies are not the same.


The decision by Oregon, Friday, January 20, allows more commercial gillnetting in the fall than Washington and, unlike Washington’s two-year policy, it does not identify an end date. Instead, Oregon’s rules will remain in place until the Commission takes further action on fisheries reform.


The reform policy builds on a joint strategy by Washington and Oregon to restructure recreational and commercial salmon fisheries on the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam. However, in just one week the two commissions adopted very different policies calling into question how commercial and recreational fisheries will be managed on that part of the Columbia River that forms the border between the two states.


Prior to last week’s decisions, the reform policies for each state were similar, making for concurrent management of recreational and commercial fisheries through the two-state Columbia River Compact. It’s unknown now how that management will proceed.


“The Commission discussed the issue at length with staff during the meeting,” said Chris Kern, Deputy Fish Chief with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “As of right now, Oregon and Washington agency staffs will be coordinating to see what the combined actions look like for 2017 fisheries.”


He said the decision for the spring season between the two states is very similar and he doesn’t “envision significant issues of non-concurrence in the next few months.”


Also, the commissions agreed on harvest allocations for summer (80 percent will go to the recreational fishery and 20 percent to commercial) so there should be no issues on the sport side for summer, though the two states have different commercial gear allowances for that season.


“Fall season will require work between the agencies, due to the difference in allocations,” Kern said (Oregon gives 66 percent to anglers and 34 percent to gillnetters, while Washington’s allocation is 75/25 percent). “We have not determined exactly what process we will use to discuss this with Washington, but we are working on that. We have had non-concurrence issues before (though I’d say of a lesser degree), and we’ve worked them out.”


Adopted by both the Washington and Oregon commissions in 2013, the initial policy was designed to promote conservation of salmon and steelhead, prioritize recreational salmon fishing in the lower Columbia River, and transition gillnet fisheries into off-channel or select areas by Dec. 31, 2016. The policy also called for increasing hatchery releases in these areas, while expanding commercial fishing opportunities through the use of alternative fishing gear.


The policy included a four-year transition period, with full implementation that was to begin January 1, 2017, but it also allowed for modifications to the plan.


The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff showed the commission that transitioning directly into full implementation would result in economic harm to commercial gillnetters. Staff said that full implementation would not enhance the viability of commercial fisheries, would not optimize economics for the region, nor would it result in adequate conservation benefits.


Instead of moving all commercial gillnetting into selected areas, mostly in the lower Columbia River, the Oregon commission voted to continue to allow some commercial gillnet fishing on the mainstem river during the summer and fall, and it increased commercial fishing in the fall, decisions the commission said in a news release “will likely create non-concurrent regulations with the State of Washington.”


One Oregon legislator said of the commission’s decisions that “there will be consequences,” according to a January 25th article in the Oregonian.


"We're all trying to figure out what we can do," said Sen. Fred Girod (R-Stayton). "I can guarantee there's going to be a dog fight." He’s considering legislation to either outlaw gillnetting or charging commercial gillnetters a fee to fish the river.


Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportsfishing Industry Association, said Oregon's commission “chose to turn the clock back. This is such a slap in the face," she said of the vote, citing the $9.75 fee sports fisherman pay to use the Columbia River as another way sports anglers shoulder a heavier burden, the Oregonian said.


The changes to Oregon’s reform policy and how those changes mesh with ODFW staff recommendations includes:


--Recreational fisheries will be allocated 80 percent for spring and summer chinook; the commercial fishery allocation will be 20 percent. Commercial fishing with tangle nets will be allowed on the mainstem river in spring. (These measures match the ODFW staff recommendations.)


However, commercial fishing with large mesh gillnets will be allowed in the summer. (This is not a staff recommendation nor does it match the Washington commission’s new policy.)


“At this time, however, the Oregon staff does not have a gear we would recommend for use in the summer to fill that season as an alternative to gillnets,” Kern said. “Our recommendation sets up a need to develop such gears, with the fleet.”


--The allocation for fall chinook is 66 percent for recreational fisheries and 34 percent for commercial fisheries. Gillnets will be allowed in Zones 4 and 5 (Warrior Rock at St. Helens to Bonneville Dam) and coho tangle nets will be allowed in Zones 1 through 3 (all lower river zones). (ODFW staff recommended 70 percent allocation for anglers.)


--The Youngs Bay “control zone” fishery closure will remain in place. Recreational anglers had pressed to remove this limitation which is a nonfishing buffer zone between the Buoy 10 fishery and Youngs Bay, a select area fishery. (ODFW staff recommended removing the closure.)


--Removal of the barbless hook requirement for lower Willamette River and Oregon off-channel recreational fisheries. (This is consistent with ODFW staff recommendations.)


--Continued enhancement in off-channel areas for commercial harvest. (This is consistent with ODFW staff recommendations.)


--Additional spring chinook production to Oregon Select Area Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) areas. One of the issues with allowing the initial fisheries reform policy to take its course January 1 was that juvenile salmon production from hatcheries had not yet reached the number of releases that would assure adequate commercial catch. (This is consistent with ODFW staff recommendations.)


On the other hand, the Washington commission last week voted to implement most of the key provisions of the current policy but modified some parts:


--The allocation of fall chinook salmon between the recreational and commercial fisheries changed. The commission increased the recreational fishery's share of fall chinook from 70 to 75 percent for the next two years, giving gillnetters a 25 percent share. In 2019 the recreational share rises to 80 percent. The original policy called for the recreational allocation to go to 80 percent January 1, 2017.


(The Oregon commission gave 66 percent of the fall chinook impacts to anglers and 34 percent to gillnetters.)


--The updated Washington policy also would explicitly allow a mainstem commercial gillnet fishery for upriver bright fall chinook upstream from the confluence of the Lewis River in 2017 and 2018, but requires improved fisheries monitoring.


(Oregon adopted a similar policy for commercial gillnetting, but will allow tangle nets in the mainstem downstream of the Lewis River).


--Washington completed the shift of the initial policy for spring chinook, increasing anglers’ share from 70 to 80 percent beginning this year.


(Oregon also increased anglers’ share to 80 percent.)


The allocation of summer chinook for the recreational fishery also will increase from 70 to 80 percent this year.


(Oregon also increased anglers’ share to 80 percent.)


In addition, the Washington commission directed staff to move forward with developing and implementing the use of alternative commercial fishing gear by 2019 (so did Oregon), and aggressively pursue a buyback program for commercial gillnet licenses (Oregon did not).


Washington’s updated policy is available at The commission January 13 and 14 agenda, along with the summary and presentation by WDFW staff to the commission are available at


Meeting materials from the commission’s January 20 meeting, including ODFW staff recommendations and draft administrative rules, are at Oregon’s updated policy is at


Washington commission vice-chair Larry Carpenter said that it is “committed to full implementation, meeting conservation goals and transitioning gillnets into off-channel areas.”


The Oregon commission did not make that commitment and instead left the end date of its new policy open.


Also see:


--CBB, January 19, 2017, “Washington Votes To Move Forward With Columbia River Harvest Changes, Oregon To Consider Similar Plan,”


--CBB, December 9, 2016, “Washington, Oregon Fish/Wildlife Commissions On Parallel Course With Columbia River Harvest Reform,”


--CBB, December 2, 2016, “Washington, Oregon Fish/Wildlife Commissions Considering Next Moves On Lower River Gillnetting,”


--CBB, November 4, 2016, “Oregon Commission To Review Columbia River Harvest Reforms, May Consider Extending Mainstem Gillnets,”


--CBB, April 22, 2016, “Oregon Commission Hears Review Of Fishing Reforms Banning Lower Columbia Gillnetters From Mainstem,”


--CBB, June 7, 2013, “Oregon ‘Re-Adopts’ Lower Columbia Commercial Gill-Net Ban; Slew Of Uncertainties Remain,”


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