ODFW and WDFW have announced plans for a lower Columbia River mainstem spring Chinook gillnet fishery – for the first time since 2016. The decision is yet another step in the alarming effort to dismantle the bi-state Columbia River fishery reforms and restore year-round gillnetting to the mainstem lower Columbia – even as many salmon and steelhead returns are precariously low. The decision flies in the face of commitments ODFW made when the $9.75 Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement was enacted in 2013:
“Money from the endorsement will help fund the transition to eliminate non-tribal commercial gill nets on the lower mainstem Columbia River and provide additional salmon and steelhead for sport fishing.”
Please act now to urge Governor Kate Brown, the ODFW Commission, and Legislators to reign in ODFW by sending a pre-drafted email – take a few minutes to personalize the email to let them know it matters to you!
The spring Chinook gillnet decision follows weeks of negotiations between ODFW Director Curt Melcher and WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. ODFW folded and has broken its own Columbia River rules to allow the fishery. The decision allows more ESA-listed spring Chinook to be killed in the commercial gillnet fishery, which has been restricted to the off-channel fishing areas since 2017. It will also result in additional mortalities to ESA-listed steelhead, which are caught and killed as bycatch in these gillnet fisheries.
Following years of planting additional hatchery spring Chinook funded by taxpayers, utilities, and sports anglers through the Columbia River endorsement, in recent years the gillnet industry has harvested more spring Chinook in off-channel areas like Oregon’s Young’s Bay than recreational anglers have caught in the entire Columbia River. Despite this, ODFW Director Curt Melcher approved the return of spring commercial gillnetting in the mainstem instead of providing more certainty for sport fisheries or allowing additional wild spring Chinook to pass upriver.
If ODFW follows through on this alarming decision, sports anglers simply can’t support the reauthorization of the $9.75 Columbia River endorsement that expires next year. Washington’s endorsement died last year when its Commission voted to undo the Columbia River reforms.
Please act now to push back against this latest betrayal.