The Select Area Fisheries project has helped supplement commercial fishing on the lower Columbia since the late 80's and early 90's when the late Jim Hill developed the net pen rearing technique for salmon smolts in Young's Bay. That successful effort was the culmination of years of experimentation stretching back into the early 1960's when the State of Oregon began setting commercial fishing seasons on the Bay. The concept, while successful in proving that those salmon would imprint on the waters they are raised in and return to those waters once mature, was never meant to do much more than supplement recreational and commercial fishing. The program was not designed to replace those larger opportunities in the lower Columbia main stem for the commercial fleet.
With sport fishing interests pushing forward with measure 81 this election cycle that would eliminate commercial salmon fishing in the main stem lower Columbia, Governor Kitzhaber directed the Oregon Fish and Wildlife commission to formulate a new salmon management reform program. That effort would restrict commercial gill net fishing to the select area fisheries off the main stem river leaving commercial fishermen the salmon that were only intended as a supplement denying them the opportunity to capture that 20% or so of main stem fish they are usually allocated to catch.
Clatsop County Commission Chair Peter Huhtala isn't happy with the direction the State is taking with the gill net fishing issue and has drafted a letter that will be reviewed by the full commission November 7th.
In the letter, addressed to the Chairs of both the Oregon and Washington fish commissions, Huhtala states that the Clatsop Board of Commissioners are 'abundantly" concerned over the direction the reforms seem to be headed. He writes that the commission is disturbed over replacing main stem commercial fishing with select areas alone. He points out that the county invests in the select area fisheries to supplement sports and commercial fishing opportunities on the main stem Columbia. He points to the county involvement in identifying select areas, securing submerged land leases, and paying for staff time to operate the program. he says that if expansion of the select area fisheries is part of the management reform then the county expects to be part of the current rule-making. Huhutala goes on to write that the county considers changing the intent of the select fisheries projects from supplementing recreational and commercial fishing to replacing commercial opportunities on the main stem as a major policy shift. The county, he writes, may have to reconsider it's involvement.
The letter is on the agenda for the Wednesday, November 7th County Commissioner meeting.