A local delegation that included Clatsop County commissioners Scott Lee and Dirk Rohne met with Gov. John Kitzhaber Thursday in Salem to urge him to re-think a proposal to restrict the Columbia River commercial gillnet salmon fishery. Following the meeting the group joined a rally of about 40 gillnetters and supporters on the steps of the Oregon capital in a show of support for the industry.

Clatsop County commissioners oppose a plan of Kitzhaber's introduced last August to ban gillnet fishing on the main stem of the Columbia and restrict it to off-channel areas. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, together with its Washington State counterpart, were tasked with developing rules to implement the proposal. The Oregon commission meets Friday, Dec. 7 in Portland to take up the draft rules; the Washington panel considers a companion set of rules at a meeting Dec. 14-15 in Olympia.

Lee and Rohne were joined by Fishhawk Fisheries owner Steve Fick, Jim Wells, president of Salmon For All commercial fishing advocacy group, and lobbyist Jim Marquis. Clatsop County Natural Resources Manager Steve Meshke also joined the group. They laid out for Kitzhaber their objections to his plan, which they contend would drive many commercial fishermen out of business without helping conserve protected Columbia River salmon runs.

The participants said Kitzhaber heard their arguments, but did not back down from his determination to move gillnets off the Columbia main stem.

"The Columbia River belongs to everyone, and the fish in it are a shared public resource that belongs to everyone," Rohne told the rally, echoing statements he made to the governor. "Everyone should have the same right to enjoy Columbia River salmon, and that is a service the gillnetters provide for all of us."

Lee said that the state's review of its Territorial Sea Plan has been ongoing for four years and has still drawn complaints that it is rushed, while the gillnet proposal is due to be acted on after only four months.

The rules would be phased in by 2016. Gillnetters would be limited to off-channel fishing; commercial fishing would be allowed in the main stem with certain alternative gear such as seine nets.

Gillnetters and their supporters argue that more than half of the commercial Columbia River salmon harvest currently comes from the main stem, and that existing off-channel fishing areas cannot accommodate all Columbia River gillnetters. They also note that seine nets are currently illegal.

For information on the proposed rules go to www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission.

Northwest Lending Group