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Betsy Johnson 'stunned' by Kitzhaber’s gillnet letter

Governor’s intervention surprises ban opponents

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Posted: Friday, August 10, 2012 11:43 am

A letter issued Thursday night by Gov. John Kitzhaber has taken many locals in the gillnetting industry by surprise.

Kitzhaber has called for phasing out nontribal commercial gillnet fishing in the mainstem of the lower Columbia River in the letter to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The governor proposed that those gillnet fishermen transition to off-channel areas such as Youngs Bay, areas that are stocked with hatchery fish so that gillnetters could still haul in a healthy harvest without inadvertently catching wild, endangered fish.

“Given all of the conversations I’ve had with him, I’m stunned with his letter,” state Sen. Betsy Johnson said today.

A proposal to ban the use of nontribal commercial gillnets in the Columbia is on Oregon’s November ballot.

Local gillnet fishing representatives who met with Gov. Kitzhaber this week came away from their meeting with the expectation that the governor would oppose the gillnet ban.

Kitzhaber's natural resources assistant, Brett Brownscombe, said the governor “doesn't feel the ballot measure is the right way to approach it. He feels that the Fish and Wildlife Commmission is – not the ballot box.”

Asked whether Kitzhaber would officially oppose the gillnet ballot measure in a Voters Pamphlet statement, Brownscome said: "He hasn't decided officially yet.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission announced today that it will discuss the governor's proposal via conference call Tuesday.

Stop Gillnets Now, the group behind a ballot measure to prohibit commercial gillnet fishing in the Columbia River issued a statement welcoming the action.

“We greatly appreciate Gov. Kitzhaber’s recognition that gillnets are a significant conservation problem and the continued use of gillnets on the Columbia threaten endangered salmon and needlessly kill seabirds and other wildlife,” the statement read. “We would like to thank Gov. Kitzhaber for his leadership in responding to the growing concerns about Gillnets, including the 142,000 Oregonians who signed a petition and placed Measure 81 on the November ballot. 

“This is an important elevation of an issue that for too long has seen common sense solutions blocked by special interests at legislative and fish and wildlife commission levels. In the coming days we will examine the details of the Governor’s proposal, monitor action by the commission and determine the best way forward for the campaign.”

Steve Fick of Fishhawk Fisheries – who opposes the gillnet ban – said he has yet to see the specifics of the governor’s proposal, but hopes that when those specifics do become available, the governor will explain why this idea is a good one.

“We’re going to review it and analyze it before we make a proper statement on it but I personally don’t think we need to come off the mainstem when we stay within the guidelines of harvest,” Fick said. “We want to maintain our jobs and our viability as a fishery and we want to be a partner in continued recovery.”

Salmon For All advocate Bruce Buckmaster said he would need to analyze the proposal before he could issue a statement.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • AmyBornstein posted at 9:51 am on Mon, Aug 13, 2012.

    AmyBornstein Posts: 1

    This is an absolute tragedy that this is even on the ballot. So many lies.

    #1 patently false lie:
    "...gillnets are a significant conservation problem and the continued use of gillnets on the Columbia threaten endangered salmon and needlessly kill seabirds and other wildlife..."


    This is about rich sportsfishermen taking away from working class commercial fishermen.
    end of story.

  • sues posted at 4:11 pm on Sun, Aug 12, 2012.

    sues Posts: 851

    Gosh, DD, you sound so angry. I am not from 'out of state'(Born into a military scene, spent childhood in Florida and Texas, moved to Clatsop County in 1976), and totally support gillnetting. Chill, huh?

    Sue S

  • FishareGood posted at 11:46 am on Sun, Aug 12, 2012.

    FishareGood Posts: 84

    Sue you might want to reread my post, Oregon LNG needs the Young's Bay Fishery to end for 3 reasons.
    1..The OLNG mitigation land being purchased/leased from PortCommissionerr Hess is located just across from tidepoint, can't see how you could use the bay for 2 conflicting purposes.
    2...The Coast Guard letter states smal lvessel traffic still needs to be dealt with between the site and Bouy 10. At one of the FERC meetings I attended this was brought up and Hansen said there was groups that work with the industry that could smooth these issues out.
    3. Liability between the Gillnet fleet/State and the Terminal Owners, still not sure what 35 million gals Korean ballast water would do on a good flood tide to the net holding pens but I can't imagine it would be good.
    I'm sure Kitzaber's plan to move more smolts to the bay would be the last thing ONLG would want. Cheers

  • David Douglas posted at 6:19 am on Sun, Aug 12, 2012.

    David Douglas Posts: 268

    SueS--this isnt about LNG or LNG companies --this is about a scum bag elitist and his pals destroying one of our important traditional industries...but, of course, you out-of-staters couldnt care less about our area and people if it interferes with your whining and fear mongering.

  • sues posted at 11:25 pm on Sat, Aug 11, 2012.

    sues Posts: 851


    I hope you're right about the Oregon LNG gang wanting gillnetting to continue. Seems to me, the LNG pirates would be very happy to see the gillnetters off the river. Less hassle for them from commercial fishermen standing in their way to trash the river. Lots easier to manipulate the sports fishermen from Portland or where ever, who don't live and work here.

    Hope you know something I don't .

    Sue S

  • David Douglas posted at 9:13 pm on Sat, Aug 11, 2012.

    David Douglas Posts: 268

    Kitzhaber, the elitist, has sold us out to his big shot sport fishing pals-it's not about management, it's just more of the "take the resource from the people to appease the few" style of gentrification of Oregon. The "endangered species" angle is a red herring. The gillnet fishery has a long history of cooperative conservation minded management. They didnt fish out those runs when there was huge pressure on them, they sure arent hurting them now with the ridiculously scant seasons they get now. I hope the Feds step in to ensure this valuable and historic Oregon fishery not only continues, but grows.

  • FishareGood posted at 11:41 am on Sat, Aug 11, 2012.

    FishareGood Posts: 84

    This should PO the gang from Oregon LNG who are spending lots of money right now trying to end the Youngs Bay Fishery.[wink]

  • Highliner posted at 2:12 pm on Fri, Aug 10, 2012.

    Highliner Posts: 1

    Thank you Governor Kitzhaber for breaking that stalemate that has stifled modern salmon management on the Lower Columbia! Our economy needs this overdue change.


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