To no one's surprise, anti-gillnet measure loses in Oregon

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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Oregon Ballot Measure 81 to ban the use of gillnets by non-Indians in the Columbia River lost in Tuesday's election, gathering just 33.8 percent support.

This is no surprise since the backers of the measure had suspended their campaign, and were actively calling for a "no" vote after Gov. John Kitzhaber said in August that he would seek a compromise.

Washington and Oregon have formed the Columbia River Fisheries Management Reform Workgroup, which is discussing and refining Kitzhaber's proposal to move the gillnet fishery out of the main Columbia River and in to off-channel areas.

The workgroup's final scheduled meeting is Nov. 15 in Astoria. The Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife commissions are expected to consider the workgroup's recommendations in December.

Sportsfishermen and conservationists banded together to get the Measure 81 on the ballot, spending half a million dollars this year to do so. They say commercial gillnets harm fish indiscriminately.  

Commercial fishermen say the measure is a backhanded attempt to score more fish for the sports fishing industry.

The four Columbia River treaty tribes opposed the measure.

“Our tribes are pleased that Oregonians have wisely and overwhelmingly rejected Ballot Measure 81,'' said Paul Lumley, executive director the Inter-Tribal Fish Commmission "In defeating this measure, Oregonians have reaffirmed their commitment to economic fair play and smart-thinking on the environment.

"The region is working together to rebuild salmon abundance. Measure 81 and Governor Kitzhaber’s troubled alternative proposal are essentially allocation fights that distract this region from doing the real work''

Although supporters of Measure 81 suspended their campaign in August, the measure still received 485,000 votes in favor.

Measure 81 did best in Benton County, where unofficial results on Wednesday showed 42.2 percent support. The issue did worst in Clatsop County, where it received only 13.2 percent.

Surprisingly, the measure got 39 percent support in Columbia County, though to be a pro-commercial county.