Today, a joint-state committee of Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commissioners voted 4-2 to recommend a return to non-tribal gillnetting in the lower mainstem Columbia River during the spring and summer seasons and an increase in mainstem gillnetting during the fall season.
The recommendation to undo the 2012 bi-state Columbia River gillnet reforms comes as Columbia River salmon and steelhead returns have plummeted in recent years – leading to recreational fishing closures throughout the Columbia River basin. The vote also comes at the same time WDFW and ODFW are asking their respective legislatures to reauthorize the Columbia River Basin Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement paid for by recreational anglers. WDFW is also seeking a recreational license fee increase.
The recommendation will now go to each state’s fish and wildlife commission, which would have to modify their policies/rules to reverse the Columbia River reforms, return gillnets to the mainstem, and reduce recreational fishing opportunity.
The Washington Commission will be meeting in Spokane on March 1-2 where we expect Washington Commissioner Don McIsaac (Hockinson) to push for their adoption – hundreds of miles away from most of the fisheries affected by the decision. The recommendation would also make barbless hooks “voluntary” in Columbia River recreational fisheries – a clear effort to distract anglers from the vote to undo the bi-state fishery reforms and harm our fisheries.
With the 2019 spring chinook run projected to be below 50% of the ten-year average, and summer chinook forecasted to barely meet escapment, a non-tribal gill net fishery on the lower mainstem Columbia River would be extraordinarily reckless. The fall chinook forecast is equally poor, and with record low returns of wild steelhead over the past two years, mainstem gillnetting could further erode many struggling ESA-listed stocks.
CCA will be sending out more details and action alerts shortly, so stay turned for more updates. The votes were as follows:
Yes – McIsaac (WA), Kehoe (WA), Buckmaster (OR), Akenson (OR)
No – Graybill (WA), Webber (OR)