Sunday, April 24, 2011

Changes Likely Coming for Columbia Commercial Fleet

The effort to reduce the impact of commercial salmon fisheries on ESA listed wild fish in the Columbia has been a long and contentious battle. This year the Oregon State Senate is consider a measure that would ban gill netting in the mainstem Columbia and limit commercial fishing to off channel areas where hatchery fish return in large numbers. Predictably, commercial fishers are opposed to the bill and it remains to be seen how much traction it will get in the Oregon legislature. Perhaps more encouraging though is the ongoing work being done by state agencies and commercial fishers on the Lower Columbia to implement selective fishing gear for the commercial fleet. Pilot studies over the last several years have demonstrated the feasibility of non-lethal gear types such as seines and trap nets.

The Colville tribe in North Eastern Washington has already successfully implemented a selective fishery using seines to harvest marked hatchery fish and releasing ESA listed wild Chinook and steelhead. That project as well as the successful pilot project on the Lower Columbia have demonstrated the effectiveness of alternative gear both for catching marked hatchery fish and ensuring the survival of the released fish wild fish.

Commercial and sport fisheries remain limited on the Columbia to control take of listed stocks and in recent years the commercial industry has become more receptive to implementing changes that meet the goals of reducing their impact on fragile populations while ensuring fishing. With continued success WDFW hopes that selective gear will go full fleet by 2013 providing a peaceful and sustainable resolution to the long battle over gillnetting on the Columbia.

An article from the Seattle Times on Oregon's proposed gillnet ban:

The Columbia Basin Bulletin on selective fishing on the Lower Columbia:

Video of the Colville Tribe's selective fishing operation

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