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.

What ASA is Doing

In January 2020, Oregon Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Commission Chair suspended the review of the Columbia River Reforms indefinitely. The commission also deferred to ODFW Director Curt Melcher on whether to change the spring Chinook allocation between commercial and sport fishermen, or to allow a spring commercial fishery on the Columbia main stem. The Lower Mainstem Columbia River Fisheries Management Reforms were heavily negotiated and designed to ensure concurrency between the states of Washington and Oregon concerning salmon fishing rules on the Columbia River. They also provide a mechanism to move gill and tangle net commercial salmon fishing off the main stem of the river, and into off-channel fisheries.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are having ongoing discussions on how to proceed for upcoming season.

ASA Pacific Fisheries Policy Director Danielle Cloutier had an oped published in the August edition of Salmon and Steelhead Journal.

What You Can Do

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For more information, contact ASA Pacific Fisheries Policy Director Larry Phillips.