Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners is taking a strong stand against Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber's plan to restrict commercial salmon gillnet fishing on the lower Columbia River.

 According to a news release from the county, the board approved sending a letter opposing the plan to both the Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commissions, which are due to consider rules implementing the governor's proposal at meetings Dec. 6-7 in Salem and Dec. 14-15 in Olympia, Wash.

The governor's proposal, presented to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission in August, would prevent the use of gillnets by non-tribal fishers on the main channel of the lower Columbia River, and would restrict them to off-channel areas. Alternative fishing gear such as tangle nets and seines could be permitted in place of gillnets on the mainstem.

The county board of commissioners, backed by the commercial salmon industry and supporters, argue that the plan would severely impact Columbia River gillnetters by eliminating a significant fishing opportunity and drive many out of business. The commissioners' letter questions the economic projections and other data on which the proposed rules are based, pointing to the heavy investment in new alternative gear required of fishermen wishing to continue operating in the mainstem. It notes that one of the identified alternative methods, seining, is currently illegal in Oregon.

The letter also states that proposals to increase hatchery smolt releases in off-channel areas remain too uncertain for the two commissions to accept the new rules.

At its Nov. 28 meeting the board welcomed public testimony about the gillnet proposal. Twenty-four commercial fishermen, processors, buyers and supporters spoke out against the plan and urged the commissioners to press their case in Salem with the fish and wildlife commission and the governor.

Audio recording of audience testimony will be available on the Clatsop County website, www.co.clatsop.or.us under "Hot Topics – Board of Commissioners meetings/agendas."

More information on the proposed gillnet rules is available online at: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/LMCR_fisheries_mgmt_reform.asp

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