Tribes criticize Kitzhaber, Oregon over lower Columbia River harvest reforms

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The Columbia River treaty tribes have blasted Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, saying he forced the state Fish and Wildlife Commission to enact fisheries harvest reform.

“The tribes are disappointed that the Governor of Oregon responded to political pressures and forced the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to hastily approve significant changes to the lower Columbia River fisheries,’’ said Paul Lumley, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

On Friday, the Oregon commission voted to prioritize sport fishing in the lower Columbia and to phase out gillnets in the main river by 2017.

Gillnets will continue to be allowed in off-channel locations and hatchery salmon releases in those sites will be increased. Commercial fishing that remains in the main lower Columbia will be transitioned to alternative gear such as purse and beach seines.

The changes “have been approved without consultation with tribal co-managers and without a complete and thoughtful analysis of the effects on the entire main stem and ocean fisheries management system,’’ Lumley said in a prepared statement.

The reforms “essentially reallocates a scarce resource with no demonstrated benefits for rebuilding natural spawning runs,’’ he added. “Cooperation and partnership will rebuilt salmon populations, not fighting over allocation.’’

Washington hearing — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will be briefed on the proposed Columbia River reforms then have a public hearing beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Comfort Inn Conference Center, 1620 74th Ave. S.W., Tumwater.

The commission is scheduled to make its decision on the reform package Jan. 11-12. Saturday’s hearing is scheduled to be available live online at www.tvw.org.