Governor Kitzhaber Dives Into Gillnetting Fight
In response to the success of the Measure 81 Campaign, Ktizhaber unveils a compromise plan. But will it go far enough in protecting wild salmon and wildlife?
Last Thursday (8/9/12), Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber added his voice
to that of Oregon Wild and dozens of other groups calling for reform of
how indiscriminate gillnets are used for commercial fishing in the
Columbia River. Kitzhaber's proposal, in the form of a letter to the
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Commission, would phase
out the use of gillnets on the main-stem of the Columbia River, shifting
their use in commercial fishing to off-channel areas where by-catch of
endangered salmon, steelhead and other species would be reduced.
The Governor's announcement comes in response to a series of milestones in the campaign to pass Measure 81, an Oregon ballot initiative also known as the Protect Our Salmon Act. Measure 81 would ban the use of indiscriminate gill nets on the Columbia, while allowing for continued commercial fishing using more sustainable practices such as purse seines. Measure 81, which Oregon Wild strongly supports, would be a giant step forward for the conservation of wild salmon, steelhead, and other fish, and for wildlife.
Many questions remain about Kitzhaber's proposal. First and foremost, while the Governor has promoted it as a compromise alternative to voters passing Measure 81, it may still be opposed by gill net proponents who have blocked all previous efforts to reform the indiscriminate use of these lethal nets. Second, it requires the ODFW Commission to enact a series of reforms through bureaucratic rule making, which requires a long and protracted process with an uncertain outcome. Finally, the exact details of what an ODFW Commission rule reforming the use of indiscriminate gill nets are impossible to predict, and the Commission has a poor track record when it comes to standing up to anti-conservation interests.The ODFW Commission will hold a hearing tomorrow (8/14/2012) to discuss Kitzhaber's plan. It will be broadcast live online starting at 2:00 PM. Tune in to learn more about this proposal, and what it means for Measure 81 and the campaign to ban indiscriminate gillnets.