Commercial, sport fishermen discuss gillnet rules

Gillnetters fish in the Columbia River. A group of commercial and sport fishermen are meeting to advise the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission as it works on rules phasing out gillnetting in the lower Columbia.

Capital Bureau

SALEM — An informal group of commercial and sport fishermen convened Tuesday at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to discuss gillnetting rules in the lower Columbia River.

The meeting comes after Gov. Kate Brown told the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission last week to reverse an earlier decision to continue to allow gillnetting in the main channel of the lower Columbia.

The group will provide its recommendations on revised rules, and the fiscal impact of possible rules, and how to minimize impacts on small businesses.

There is a longstanding conflict between recreational and commercial anglers over who gets to nab how much seasonal salmon in the area, and whether commercial fishermen can use gillnets, devices that trap fish by the gills and can yield large hauls.

The state’s sporting anglers generally oppose the practice, as have environmental groups

Washington’s fish and wildlife commission voted in January to phase out the practice in two years, and Oregon was expected to do the same under a deal worked out by the Kitzhaber administration.

But Oregon’s fish and wildlife commission narrowly decided last month to continue to allow gillnetting.

Brown called those rules “not acceptable,” and gave the commission until April 3 to make revisions.

Participants in Tuesday’s committee meeting included several commercial fishermen and representatives of the state’s recreational fishing community, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

They included:

  • Tom Wolf, executive director of the Oregon Council of Trout Unlimited; Jim Wells, president of Salmon for All and a commercial fisherman; Cary Johnson, a commercial fisherman; Bruce Polley, vice president of the Coastal Conservation Association of Oregon, an advocacy group for salmon and steelhead; Bob Rees, executive director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders; and Steve Fick, a commercial fisherman, who is also on the board of Salmon for All.

ODFW Director Curt Melcher said last week he would reopen the rulemaking process in response to the governor’s directive.

The fish and wildlife commission is scheduled to meet March 17.

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