Friday in Portland, Ore., the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission approved Gov. John Kitzhaber’s proposal to ban gillnets on the Columbia River’s main stem. Part of the plan also allocates 5 percent of the commercial sector’s 40 percent quota to recreational fishermen in 2013 and another 5 percent in 2014.
What is the purpose of increasing the recreational allocation to 65 percent and decreasing the commercial allocation from 40 to 35 percent? I’m confused as to how that is part of a conservation measure.
The Coastal Conservation Association claims gillnets are not selective enough. However, gillnets are improved year over year in fisheries all over the country. Fishermen shift depth, mesh size, net length, soak time and even attach pingers to make their nets unattractive to unwanted species.
What the CCA is basing this information on is a mystery to me. Yes, there is some bycatch in any fishery — including recreational fisheries. Meanwhile, we know that recreational fishing landings leave huge data gaps. I suppose ultimately the cuts don’t matter that much, since commercial fishermen say they are unlikely to find enough fish in off-channel areas to fill their more modest quotas anyway.
“The Columbia River belongs to everyone, and the fish in it are a shared public resource that belongs to everyone,” Clatsop County Commissioner Dirk Rohne said at a rally last Thursday, according to the Daily Astorian. “Everyone should have the same right to enjoy Columbia River salmon, and that is a service the gillnetters provide for all of us.”
Nationwide, we are moving closer to privatized fisheries, from delivering the fish out of the hands of commercial fishermen, whose efforts feed the public at large, to delivering quotas to fewer and fewer boat owners, which leads to the Wal-Mart model in commercial fishing — behemoth stakeholders enjoying less competition.
Neither of these management developments makes fisheries easier to manage.
To the people of Oregon, I say only this: When you’re eating Alaska and California salmon next summer, you will know whom to thank — commercial fishermen from states that allow for innovation in commercial fishing as an alternative to shut-downs.