Overview of the Issue
Since 1915, Oregon and Washington have worked together to manage the salmon industry on more than 145 shared miles of the Columbia river – from the mouth to the Bonneville Dam. In 2012, the states agreed to phase out gillnets on the main channel of the river by 2017 as part of a broader package of river reforms. In early 2019, a joint committee of Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commissioners voted 4-2 to recommend a return to non-tribal gillnetting in the lower mainstem Columbia River during the spring and summer seasons and an increase in mainstem gillnetting. The committee recommendation to undo the 2012 bi-state Columbia River gillnet reforms comes as Columbia River salmon and steelhead returns have plummeted in recent years – leading to recreational fishing closures throughout the Columbia River basin.
Commissioners from both states are working on an overhaul of their respective Columbia River salmon management policies, which are designed to achieve conservation goals for salmon and steelhead, promote orderly fisheries in concurrent waters, and maintain and enhance economic stability in sport and commercial fisheries. In March, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission followed the joint-state commission.