Protecting Wildlife From Gill Nets
The outdated practice of commercial gill net fishing indiscriminately kills Oregon wildlife and causes needless suffering
How You can Help
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Sign up to help get the Protect Our Salmon Act of 2012 on the Oregon ballot this November.
12.7.12 We did it! Oregonian article on phase out of gillnets.
7.23.12 Oregonian Newspaper -- Oregon Wild's Steve Pedery on why voters should give gill nets the boot
7.2.12 OPB Earthfix -- Coalition says Gillnet Ban Heading to the Ballot
6.14.12 News article -- Oregon Voters May Get Chance to Ban Gillnetting
Oregon Wild works hard all across our state to recover wild salmon and steelhead runs, and the habitat they need to survive and thrive. We also have a long history of supporting sustainable commercial and recreational fishing opportunities, where these activities don’t endanger the recovery of wild fish runs.
But Oregon Wild strongly opposes the outdated, indiscriminate, and cruel practice of using gill nets to commercially harvest salmon from the Columbia River. Recently, Oregon Wild lent its support to a 2012 ballot initiative to ban commercial gill netting in the Columbia River, while supporting less lethal, more selective alternatives. Known as the Protect Our Salmon Act, this initiative would end the lethal practice of indiscriminate commercial gill netting on the Columbia River, while still allowing sustainable commercial fishing using less-lethal techniques.
What Are Gill nets?
In the Columbia River, gill nets, which are usually made from nylon mono-filament, are strung across the river in areas salmon and other commercially valuable species are known to travel through. The curtains are suspended by a system of floats, and weighted at the bottom. The holes in the net are large enough to allow fish to get their heads in, but when they try to back out the netting snags on their gills.
These nets are indiscriminate, capturing not only salmon, but also many other species that become entangled in them, including diving birds, otters, beavers, as well as threatened and endangered species of fish. For this reason, some have dubbed them “curtains of death”.
Gill nets Harm Wildlife, Cause Needless Suffering
Much of the wildlife that becomes entangled in a gill net cannot escape from it, and often drown after prolonged suffering. Those who can escape often have severe injuries, and die after prolonged suffering. Similarly, non-target fish species often suffer severe injuries to their gills and heads, and cannot survive even if they are removed from the nets and released. Endangered wild salmon and steelhead are killed by the indiscriminate nature of the nets just as easily as are the hatchery-produced salmon that are their targets.
Similarly, iconic species like white sturgeon, which are currently in steep decline in Oregon, also frequently become entangled and trapped in the nets. The indiscriminate, lethal nature of gill nets has brought an unusual coalition of wildlife advocates and fishing interests together to work towards reform of this outdated practice.
The good news is that alternatives exist to gill nets that would protect Oregon’s wildlife while still allowing for a sustainable commercial fishing industry in Oregon. For the last several years the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has been testing a type of net known as “purse seines” in the Columbia River.
Purse seines allow commercial fishermen to encircle a group of salmon, while leaving them in the river and free swimming. Fish can then be identified and released by type of species, with a minimum amount of handling. Wildlife deaths are dramatically reduced. Testing has shown this technique to be extremely promising, and state agencies are already debating the best way to encourage the use of seines in the future.
The Protect Our Salmon Act of 2012 would encourage the adoption of more responsible fishing practices, and would change Oregon law to allow for sustainable commercial fishing in the Columbia River using purse seines and other techniques.More information about the campaign to protect Oregon wildlife from gill nets:
- The Stop Gill Nets Now campaign web site
- Fact Sheet: What is the Protect Our Salmon Act?
- Fact Sheet: Why gill netting should go
- Fact Sheet: Common-sense alternatives to gill nets
- Language of the Protect Our Salmon Act of 2012
- Background on Washington's testing of purse seines as an alternative go gill nets
More resources on how gill nets harm wildlife:
- An American Bird Conservancy magazine article on the effects of gill nets on birds
- Bird Life International on gill nets and sea birds
- News article on the effects of abandoned "ghost nets" in Puget Sound
- News article on how the death of a 5-month-old Hawaiian monk seal in a gill net sparked a backlash in that state
- More information, including photos, regarding gill nets and seals