Fishermen urge Fish and Wildlife Commission to revisit regulations

Apr. 25—Several local commercial fishermen have asked the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to reconsider Columbia River fishing regulations.

During the public forum section of the commission's meeting in Astoria on Friday, commercial fishermen and those connected with the industry asked the commission to revisit gillnetting regulations and salmon buyback options.

Jim Coleman, a fisherman from St. Helens, asked commissioners to add gillnetting to a future agenda or to work with Washington state to ensure the option of a 6-inch gillnet in the fall.

"The gillnet-caught Copper River King salmon is flown from Alaska to Seattle on a chartered jet with great fanfare, demanding $70 to $80 a pound, while commercial fishing on the Columbia River is a political football," Coleman said.

Jim Wells, the president of Salmon for All, said he was disappointed that the commission met in Astoria but did not discuss fishing issues on the river.

Wells asked the commission to align with Washington state regulations, allowing for fall coho fishing with traditional gear and said that pound net fishing is not economically viable for fishermen.

"I don't know any gillnetter that's interested, at this point, in moving forward with that gear type. I haven't talked to anybody that is. It's a loser, and we're not here to lose money," Wells said.

Bruce Buckmaster, the co-chairman of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board's water and climate committee and a former fish and wildlife commissioner, said legislation has failed to balance environmental sustainability and the needs of non-sport fishermen.

He requested that the commission initiate an agenda to consider a Columbia River policy that includes a clear mandate for social justice.

"Two things are clear: One, there are fewer of us. Two, there will continue to be fewer of us unless something changes," Buckmaster said. "We do not want to be lost and then forgotten."

At the meeting, the Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted federal ocean salmon fishing regulations, based on the Pacific Fishery Management Council's adopted seasons. The move meant the updated federal guidelines for fishing in federal waters now apply to state waters within 3 miles of the shore.

The adopted season aimed to meet conservation goals and protect weak salmon stocks, according to the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

North of Cape Falcon, the overall allowable catch is 54,000 Chinook, 4,000 fewer than last year, split between commercial and sport fisheries.

The total quota of marked hatchery coho is 200,000, compared to 75,000 last year. Of that, the ocean sport fishery quota for marked coho is 168,000.

In that region, the tribal ocean fishery quotas are 40,000 Chinook salmon, unchanged from last year, and 52,000 coho, an increase from last year's 26,500. The council adopted seasons as proposed by tribes on the Oregon and Washington coasts.

In setting commercial and recreational halibut seasons, the Fish and Wildlife Commission slightly lowered this year's fishery catch limit, keeping with the International Pacific Halibut Commission's recommendations.