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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

April 16, 2009 at 6:26 PM

Lower Columbia River salmon harvest solution proposed

The potential for a win-win solution to the long-standing acrimony over salmon harvests on the Lower Columbia River has been recognized by a key member of Oregon’s congressional delegation, according to a SAFE for Salmon Campaign news release.

Congressman David Wu, D-OR 1, is expectant that Oregon lawmakers will pass legislation that will solve the current conservation and economic crises plaguing fisheries on the Lower Columbia River.

“There are several proposals pending in the state legislature that seek to reform the Lower Columbia commercial salmon fishery,” Wu said in a written statement. “I am hopeful an equitable solution can be reached during this legislative session.”

Commercial and sport-fishing industries are locked in annual, divisive arguments over non-tribal salmon allocation. The bitter debates intensify when commercial and sport seasons are delayed, truncated and/or abruptly closed to protect endangered and threatened wild fish runs. Early closures have been the rule for the past several years.

Negative economic impacts from abbreviated, irregular seasons are felt in businesses and communities throughout the state. Iconic businesses like Joe’s and North River Boats have fallen victim to the status quo while several others are on the verge of collapse.

Wu’s congressional district includes Yamhill, Columbia, and Clatsop Counties and is home to large numbers of commercial and sport fishers and numerous businesses relying upon successful fisheries.

The Congressman pledged to working with everyone.

“It is vital that the Lower Columbia River maintains strong commercial and recreational salmon fisheries,” said Congressman Wu. “Both industries provide social and economic benefits to the entire Pacific Northwest and help maintain the way-of-life that we cherish.”

SAFE for Salmon, a coalition of conservation and sport fishing organizations, has a bill before the legislature offering all stakeholders and the resource the win-win solution for which Congressman Wu is advocating.

House Bill 2734/SB 554 relocates commercial gill-nets into SAFE (Select Area Fisheries Enhancement) zones thereby prioritizing the Lower Columbia main stem for sport fishing. Sport fishing opportunities will be doubled while the commercial fleet, which already pulls a majority of its harvest from SAFE areas, will be able to maintain or grow their current harvest numbers in amply supplied SAFE areas. The removal of gill nets from the mainstem will also lessen the stress on wild fish stocks and assist in the recovery of endangered wild fish populations.

“[House Bill] 2734/SB 554 will allow the sport and commercial fishing industries to realize their full economic potential while also enhancing conservation efforts for wild stocks,” said Colin Cochran, SAFE for Salmon Campaign Director. “Local communities throughout Oregon stand to gain substantially with the successful passage of SAFE for Salmon. Inaction will lead to disaster for fish and fishing businesses alike. We are thankful that Congressman Wu recognizes that win-win reform on the Lower Columbia is needed and needed now and we hope that those views are shared by our leaders in Salem.”

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