In a prelude to what we expect to be a spirited WDFW meeting this Saturday, the ODFW folded under pressure from gillnet advocates and postponed the promised sunsetting of gillnet fisheries in the mainstem of the Columbia River for 2017. This is particularly galling when you realize recreational anglers have kept their end of the bargain — paying CR endorsement fees on licenses intended to specifically fund the transition of commercial gillnet fisheries off this waterway. From the ODFW website:
The endorsement helps fund the transition of non-tribal commercial gill nets out of the mainstem Columbia River into enhanced off-channel areas, freeing up additional salmon and steelhead for sport fishing.
The license fees have been paid, and yet ODFW is breaking it’s bargain on this. This is in no uncertain terms just a handout to the NT gillnet fishermen — and it’s a giveaway being funded by fees specifically raised for the purpose of their transition off the mainstem. Remarkable.
Moving across the river to the north, this sets up an interesting situation for WDFW and the public meeting this Saturday (10:15 AM, all are encouraged to attend!). As a partner with ODFW in the process to transition NT gillnets out of the mainstem, will the DFW be willing to stand up, or will they succumb to the same commercial, gillnet, special interests?
We view this decision as an important litmus test of if the WDFW can be trusted to keep their promises to recreational fishermen. And with a looming request to the legislature for 2017 recreational fee increases — it sure seems like a time to prove how important recreational fishing really is.
Remember, in both states — in addition to paying the bulk of license fees — recreational fishing unquestionably generates the most economic activity of any user group. ODFW’s decision only goes to show how much work we have to do to restore logical and economically intelligent decision making to northwest fisheries management.