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NW Fishletter #390, February 4, 2019

[16] Washington, Oregon Meet To Develop Joint Fishing Policies

A workgroup of fish and wildlife commissioners from Oregon and Washington hopes to resolve differences between the two states' fishing policies in the Columbia River.

Made up of three commissioners from each state, the joint policy review committee held its first meeting Jan. 17.

The workgroup formed after a joint commission meeting in November, when staff from both states expressed the difficulties for enforcement officers and boat fishermen when regulations in concurrent waters aren't aligned.

It will first focus on finding common ground for the 2019 fishing season before tackling other outstanding issues, said Tucker Jones, Columbia River program manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The use of gillnets on the main stem of the Columbia River is part of the initial discussions, Jones said. Oregon currently allows the use of large-mesh commercial gillnets in the fall in two zones of the Columbia River and as of 2019, Washington does not. Both states had been working since 2013 to phase out non-tribal gillnets on the Columbia under a policy that prioritizes recreational fishing in the main-stem river.

That policy assumed that gillnet fishermen would be successful with alternative gear--such as purse seine or beach seine nets--and in newly identified off-channel areas. But even with low release mortality rates on a per fish basis, the seines encountered too many Endangered Species Act-listed steelhead for a successful transition for fall fisheries, Jones noted.

He said some of the potentially new off-channel areas haven't had high enough returns while others resulted in fishermen catching too many non-local fish rather than the hatchery Chinook and coho being targeted. Oregon kept parts of the main-stem river open to gillnets in the fall, and further increased production in off-channel areas so commercial fisheries could remain viable.

Commissioners, too, recognized that while survival rates of individual wild fish freed from the purse seine and beach seine nets is much higher, those nets catch far more wild fish than the gillnets, negating the benefits of those higher rates.

In a five-year review of the policy, Washington commissioners also learned that a suitable replacement for gillnet fishing has not yet been found.

Recommended changes by the workgroup must first be adopted by the full commissions in each state. Commissioners from Oregon are Bruce Buckmaster, Holly Akenson, and Bob Webber--as long as his term remains extended. Commissioners from Washington are David Graybill, Bob Kehoe and Don McIsaac. -K.C. Mehaffey

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NW Fishletter is produced by NewsData LLC.
Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: K.C. Mehaffey
Phone: (206) 285-4848 Fax: (206) 281-8035

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