The Oregonian, Henry Miller at the Salem Statesman-Journal and Northwest Public Radio have stories out this morning about yesterday’s Columbia River gillnetting conference call between the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission and ODFW fishery managers.
Basically the commission told staffers to follow Governor Kitzhaber’s request and begin drafting rules that would lead to the phasing out of gillnetting on the mainstem and moving the nontribal commercial fleet into off-channel areas.
Reports The Oregonian:
“ODFW director Roy Elicker told the commission that meeting Kitzhaber’s end-of-the-year deadline would be a “heavy lift.” But the complexity the issue, the lack of trust between competing groups, and the need to coordinate efforts with Washington state makes it a daunting task.
On Tuesday, the two main competing fishing groups had different reactions to Kitzhaber’s proposal.
That the commission and governor agree that gillnets should be off the mainstem of the Columbia “is a remarkable change,” said Jeremy Wright, spokesman for Stop Gillnets Now. While the group has “a healthy and understandable skepticism” it will support and participate in the rulemaking process, Wright said.
But David Reinhard, a spokesman for Salmon for All which represents commercial fishing interests, said mainstem fishing needed to be retained and that off-channel areas could not be improved enough to replace lost fish.
“The areas are just not cut out for gillnetters,” Reinhard said. “It certainly can’t make them whole.”
The governor wants a three-year transition moving commercial gillnets from the mainstem Columbia into off-channel areas which would be enhanced by more hatchery-raised fish, Brent Brownscombe, Kitzhaber’s natural resources adviser, told the commission. Commercial fishermen could only fish in the main river if they used selective fishing gear.
Brett Brownscombe, a natural resources policy advisor for the governor, said that Kitzhaber had planned to deal with longstanding conflicts between sport and commercial anglers when the current agreement with Washington about allocations runs out in 2013.
But Ballot Measure 81 on the November ballot moved the timeline
The measure if passed would ban gillnetting on the Oregon side of the Columbia.
“The governor was concerned about the initiative,” because of its immediacy, Brownscombe said, adding that the slow transition that Kitzhaber wants, “is designed to draw out and blunt that hit,” to commercial fishermen.
The governor opposes Measure 81, he added.
Sport fishermen and environmental groups say the nets kill endangered wild salmon and other marine wildlife. But the commercial fishing industry says a ban on gillnets would be a crippling blow. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber opposes the ballot measure. Instead, he wants to phase-out gillnetting along the Columbia over the next four years, but continue to allow it in certain side-channels near the mouth of the river. And the governor wants the plan in place by the end of the year. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Roy Elicker says that’s an aggressive timetable.
Elicker: “It will be a heavy lift. I will not kid anyone this. I don’t think I’m saying anything new here. But I think we can achieve the governor’s direction and in a timely way.”
Supporters of the ban say they applaud the governor’s efforts but haven’t yet decided on the future of their ballot measure campaign.
A press release out of ODFW yesterday afternoon reads:
Fish and Wildlife Commission directs ODFW to initiate rule-making for lower Columbia River fisheries managementSALEM, Ore. – The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission today directed agency staff to formally begin rule-making that will implement Governor John Kitzhaber’s proposed reforms of lower Columbia River fisheries management.
In an Aug. 9 letter, the Governor asked the Commission and ODFW to work with their counterparts in Washington state to develop a new management framework for Columbia River fisheries that prioritizes recreational fisheries in the mainstem of the lower Columbia, and enhances commercial fishing opportunities in off –channel areas while phasing out non-tribal gill nets in the mainstem.
The Commission directed the department to draft rules that reflect the proposals in the Governor’s Aug. 9 letter, as well as the additional details provided by his staff at today’s meeting. The Commission also directed staff to work closely with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and its Commission.
Bobby Levy, chair of the Oregon Commission, asked staff to develop and present the draft rules for its consideration before the end of 2012.