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Apr-21-2011 19:09printcomments

Senate Committee Votes to Move Gillnet Restrictions Forward

"It's refreshing to see the sportfishing and conservation communities work together and get some positive movement on this issue" - Russell Bassett, Northwest Steelheaders

State of Oregon Capitol bulding

(Salem, Oregon) - The Oregon Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources voted today to pass out of committee a bill to restrict commercial gillnetting in the Columbia River.

The Committee voted 3-2 to forward Senate Bill 736, commonly known as SAFE for Salmon, to the Senate Rules Committee.

SB 736 is designed to optimize Columbia River salmon harvest between sport and commercial interests. The bill calls for moving the non-tribal commercial gillnet fleet in the lower-Columbia River below Bonneville Dam into off-channel Select Area Fisheries Enhancement (SAFE) areas. These areas are currently in use and account for the majority of the commercial catch.

SAFE for Salmon would change fish management of the Columbia River in order to reduce bycatch mortality on wild fish, increase sportfishing catch, and benefit Oregon's economy by providing a more consistent sportfishing season and more jobs, while at the same time providing tens of thousands of fish annually to the commercial fishery and general public.

Senators Jackie Dingfelder, Mark Hass and Floyd Prozanski voted in favor of the measure, while Senators Alan Olsen and Chuck Thomsen voted against it.

"We have a lot of Republican support for SB 736," said Association of Northwest Steelheaders Government Affairs Director Norm Ritchie. "Many of the sponsors of the bill are Republicans, but unfortunately today's vote was split along party lines. Once it hits the Senate floor, the vote will show that this measure has bi-partisan support because it will enhance sportfishing jobs while protecting commercial fishing jobs and our wild salmon runs."

The Committee voted in favor (3-2) of an amendment to the bill that would only end mainstem Columbia gillnet fishing during the spring Chinook fishery, March-May. All other seasons, including summer and fall Chinook, would still be open to the gillnetting in the mainstem. The amendment also called on a moratorium for new gillnetting permits and permit renewals if the permits were not used in the last 12 months.

SB 736 is supported by the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Trout Unlimited, Northwest Guides and Anglers Association, Coastal Conservation Association, and Oregon Wild, among others. The measure is also endorsed by the Oregon Conservation Network and Gov. Kitzhaber.

"Anglers often have as many ideas on how fish should be managed as they do gear types, but on this issue, we are united." said Russell Bassett, Northwest Steelheaders executive director. "It's refreshing to see the sportfishing and conservation communities work together and get some positive movement on this issue."

News Release from: Assn. of Northwest Steelheaders

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