Oregon rejects gillnet fishing ban on Columbia River

The plan will split the fall chinook harvest, with 66 percent for recreational fishers and 34 percent for commercial ones.

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon officials have declined to ban gillnetting outright, putting the state at odds with neighboring Washington when it comes to managing protected salmon and steelhead.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 4 to 3 against banning the commercial fishing technique in the main channel of the Lower Columbia River, reported The Daily Astorian. Commercial and recreational anglers have argued for years over who should be allowed to catch how much of seasonal salmon runs and which fishing methods should be used.

The commission heard more than six hours of testimony and staff reports on the issue.

During the hearing, Astoria gillnetters said generations of community businesses and family fortunes  would be at risk if a ban passed. Recreational anglers, however, argued that gillnetting takes fish indiscriminately and can’t differentiate between wild and hatchery fish.

The decision contrasts with Oregon’s 2012 agreement with Washington state to phase out gillnets in the Columbia River’s main channel.

Under the commission’s approved plan, 80 percent of spring and summer wild chinook will be granted to recreational anglers, while the remaining 20 percent can be harvested by commercial fishers. Chinook are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The plan will split the fall chinook harvest, with 66 percent for recreational fishers and 34 percent for commercial ones.

Gillnetters had offered their own plan, which would have given them a larger share of the fish, but Fishhawk Fisheries owner Steve Fick says he wasn’t disappointed with the commission’s decision.

“When everybody’s a little unhappy, it’s probably a reasonable decision,” said Fick, whose fishery is based in Astoria.

Recreational anglers, however, say gillnetting should only be allowed on the river’s side channels and says sports fishers have a larger economic impact.

“We fill the hotels to bursting in Astoria,” said Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportsfishing Industry Association.

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