Oregon seeks compromise on Columbia salmon fishing reforms

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter



SALEM, Ore. — The chairman of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has offered to compromise with the Washington commission over their differences regarding the Columbia River salmon reforms.

Earlier this year, the two state commissions approved reforms starting this year in how salmon are allocated between sport and commercial fishermen and allowable commercial fishing methods.

Oregon opted for a plan more friendly to commercial fishing than did the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown then scolded the Oregon commission for reneging on a 2013 agreement to limit gillnetting to off-channel areas and told it to change the policy by April 3.

Michael Finley, chair of the Oregon commission, sent a letter to Brad Smith, chair of the Washington commission, on Tuesday detailing his compromise proposals.

By species, here is a look at Finley’s proposals:

Spring chinook — The states agree on an allocation of 80 percent of the Endangered Species Act impacts to sportsmen and 20 percent to the commercials.

Washington prohibits any commercial spring chinook fishery on the main Columbia. Finley proposes Washington authorize the use of tangle nets, which are small-mesh gillnets, but have a much lower mortality on released wild salmon.

Summer chinook — The states also agree here on an allocation of 80 percent of the Endangered Species Act impacts to sportsmen and 20 percent to the commercials.

Finley proposes Oregon accept Washington’s prohibition of large-mesh gillnets during the summer chinook period.

“It is acknowledged that there are currently no alternative gears available to access the commercial fishery share of summer chinook harvest but providing this allocation may lead to innovation that will help inform future alternative gear discussions,’’ Finley wrote.

Fall chinook — Washington and Oregon agree that gillnetting with large-mesh nets will be allowed between Woodland and Beacon Rock during the fall run in 2017 and 2018.

Washington adopted an allocation of 75 percent of the ESA impacts to sportsmen and 25 percent to the commercials. Oregon adopted a 66 percent sport and 34 percent commercial split.

Finley proposes compromising at a 70 percent sport-30 percent commercial allocation.

Oregon also commits to working with Washington on evaluating bycatch of summer steelhead and sturgeon during the next two years.

“Oregon requests consideration of allowing main stem tangle nets in the spring in return for excluding gillnets in the summer, and splitting the difference of our respective fall allocations,’’ Finley wrote.

“We believe that our proposal is a reasonable approach to achieve concurrence for this next phase of Columbia River Fishery management and still honor the needs and commitments made by the two states,’’ he wrote.

Today, the Association of Northwest Steelheaders plan to deliver to Brown’s office a 5,891-signature petition calling for Oregon to adopt Washington’s position on the Columbia River reforms and to remove Bruce Buckmaster of Astoria from the Oregon commission.

Buckmaster is the leading advocate for gillnet-fishing interests on the Oregon commission.

The Oregon commission next meets on March 17 in Corvallis. Washington’s commission meets next on March 17 and 18 in Olympia.