Portland rally brings sport and commercial interests togetherPORTLAND - Fishermen flooded the streets and waterways of Portland Wednesday in a rally to highlight the importance of salmon and other fish in the Columbia River.

Commercial, sport and tribal fishermen joined together to protest federal policies such as cuts in spill over dams that they say are harming salmon runs.

A long line of sportfishermen made their way down Interstate 5 to Holladay Park, where they met with a fleet of commercial fishermen who had come by boat down the Willamette River.

"The idea is to get this message out to the public and to the federal government," said Jon Westerholm of the Columbia River Fishermen's Protective Union. Westerholm gave a speech at the rally, where he estimated that 500 or 600 people were gathered.

"I made the statement that 'So goes salmon, so goes us.' We need to plan for future generations."

"Salmon have been a part of the Northwest fabric for many centuries an continue to be an important symbol of the Northwest," U.S. Rep. David Wu said in a statement. "Restoration of healthy salmon runs is a priority for our region. Unfortunately, this administration seems content to simply redefine the problem away."

The rally was a chance for fishermen to express their displeasure at policies like the federal salmon plan expected to be released today that fishermen and environmental groups have already decried.

"They're dragging their heels, the federal government is," said Westerholm, citing NOAA fisheries in particular. "They're supposed to be watching after our fish ... and here they are going along with power interests. We don't think they're doing their job properly." Westerholm said he hoped that the rally would convince agencies to adopt more fish-friendly policies.

The rally was capped off by a barbecue of upriver bright salmon sponsored by the intertribal fish commission.

The next step, said Westerholm, is a letter-writing campaign to urge representatives to cosponsor a salmon planning act.

The rally was sponsored by the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, Salmon for All, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and Trout Unlimited.

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