L ast Friday afternoon the Oregon and Washington departments of Fish and Wildlife announced an agreement on allocation and gear types for Columbia River salmon fisheries in 2020. Notwithstanding poor run-size forecasts for ESA-listed salmon and steelhead populations, which will severely restrict seasons, the agreement calls for increasing commercial gill net harvests at the expense of public recreational fishing opportunity, and will potentially allow commercial netting on the mainstem during the spring season for the first time since 2016.
Northwest Steelheaders is extremely disappointed in this agreement, which continues a disturbing trend to undermine the fundamental principles and commitments embodied in the 2012 Columbia River Reform package. In past years, we’ve seen the implementation of the reforms delayed, the recreational priority reduced, and, contrary to the intent of the original package, non-selective gill nets persisting on the mainstem during the fall season. The 2020 agreement will now reduce the recreational share of the spring Chinook catch and allow small-mesh gill nets (aka “tangle nets”) to be deployed on the mainstem.
Northwest Steelheaders has consistently supported the full implementation of the original reform package and have repeatedly urged the agencies and commissions to cease the backpedaling and honor the commitments made to sport anglers in exchange for agreeing to pay the Columbia River Endorsement fee. You can read our most recent testimony here.
How can recreational anglers be expected to support the agencies when public fisheries are being cut in favor of private commercial harvests? Why should anglers support reauthorization of the Columbia River Endorsement Fee (which in part funds enhancement of off-channel commercial fisheries), when the reform package is being systematically dismantled? And why do we continue to publicly subsidize inefficient, dysfunctional, and obsolete commercial exploitation of threatened public resources with tax-payer, rate-payer and sport angler dollars?
Reach out to your elected officials and the Washington and Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commissions to express what you think about the 2020 Columbia River salmon fisheries agreement.