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Columbia River Reforms Thrown Under The Bus By Odfw Commission

Late tonight, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 4-3 on an Enhanced Commercial Rebalance of the Columbia River reforms.  This decision violated a reasonable compromise the State of Washington passed last week, ignored recommendations from ODFW staff and broke a promise to over 400,000 anglers across Oregon and Washington.  These actions were taken despite authors of the plan presenting evidence of its success and legislators, both Republican and Democrat, strongly encouraging commissioners to stay the course. 
The Commissioners, lead by Governor Kate Brown’s appointees, voted to permanently leave gillnets in the mainstem and renege on the sportfishing priority.  They allocated more fish to the gillnetters in the fall, which will pound on weaker stocks of steelhead and sturgeon and further cut into already short seasons for our industry.  A panel of conservation groups (Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Trout Unlimited, Wild Salmon Center) all strenuously encouraged the Commission to stick to the conservation goals of the plan, but this fell on deaf ears. 
Governor Brown’s Commission has thrown the river into chaos, put the ODFW agency budget at risk, showed a disregard for our relationship with the state of Washington Commission, and insulted anglers who have sacrificed both financially and with less opportunity.   Their complete focus on a select few gill-netters, despite statutory language that includes the enhanced economics of the sports fleet, is beyond comprehension and explanation. Frankly, their actions suggest they care nothing for the average angler, but for a select group of gill-net fisherman and it's less than 200 licensees. 
For the first time in over 100 years the two states will have non concurrent rules.  ODFW staff expressed disbelief and concern about what to do. At one point ODFW asked how Oregon State Police would enforce a divide in the river and OSP had no comment. Are Oregon anglers required to purchase both Oregon and Washington licenses to fish the entire river?  Or, more likely, will each side be forced to buy a license from their state and be required to only fish their side of the river. This has the potential to cost millions of dollars and jobs for the hard working men and women who make up the sport fishing industry.  Not including the months of potential litigation between the two states. 
 Governor Brown promised and committed twice to CCA Oregon, NSIA, Steelheaders NW and NW Guides and Anglers that she was committed to making the Columbia River reforms a reality. Unfortunately, her appointees and Commission must not have gotten the message.  Much more to follow
Highlights of the policy adopted today include:
  • Spring and summer Chinook Endangered Species Act (ESA) impacts will be allocated 80 percent for recreational fisheries; 20 percent for commercial fisheries. Commercial fishing with tangle nets allowed on the mainstem river in the spring and largemesh gillnets in the summer.
  • Fall Chinook ESA impacts will be allocated 66 percent for recreational fisheries and 34 percent for commercial fisheries. Gillnets will be allowed in Zones 4 and 5 and coho tangle nets will be allowed in Zones 1 through 3.
  • Continuation of the Youngs Bay “control zone” fishery closure.
  • Removal of the barbless hook requirement for lower Willamette River and Oregon off-channel recreational fisheries.
  • Continued enhancement in off-channel areas for commercial harvest.
  • Additional spring Chinook production to Oregon Select Area Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) areas.
Liz Hamilton, Executive Director
Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association
PO Box 4, Oregon City, OR 97045
503.631.8859  503.704.1772m
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