Law makers push to end non tribal gill netting on the Columbia
A bipartisan group of 24 Washington senators led by Jesse Salomon, D-Shoreline, introduced a bill Friday that requires ending the practice of using non-tribal gill nets to harvest salmon in the Columbia River.
Senate Bill 5617 would also expand harvest reforms statewide, including in Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor and Puget Sound. It requires an end to gillnetting by 2023.
“At a time when Washington’s two most iconic creatures, orca and salmon, are at critically low levels, this bill represents an important part of the solution.” said Salomon, chief author of the legislation.
The Columbia River harvest reforms were put into place to provide enhanced conservation benefits to the 13 endangered stocks in the Columbia Basin, while maximizing harvest of abundant hatchery and healthy wild stocks and the economic benefits of healthy fisheries for the region.
It took years of negotiation between Columbia River salmon stakeholders to craft the reforms. They were set to be fully implemented by 2017, but a key conservation component, a buyout of the gill net fleet, has languished. “Without legislation and funding, (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) was unable to implement this part of the plan, creating uncertainty about the reforms. SB-5617 removes any doubt about our state’s commitment to the conservation and economic benefits envisioned in the reforms,” said Salomon.
The bill states, in part: “that the use of gill nets for the nontribal harvest of salmon must be phased out in favor of mark selective harvest techniques that are capable of the unharmed release of wild and endangered salmon while selectively harvesting hatchery reared salmon.”
The bill is a response to recent attempts at rolling back the reforms passed in 2012. The Fish and wildlife Commissions of both states had assigned a six-member panel to hash out possible changes to the policy, including allowing gill nets back on the mainstem of the Columbia River.
Liz Hamilton, the executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, said “Governor Inslee has outlined a bold and ambitious recovery plan for orca, and Columbia River salmon are an essential food source. We applaud Senator Salomon and his 23 Co-Sponsors for their leadership on this issue.”