CCA Helps Launch Ballot Initiative to Recover Oregon's Iconic Salmon Runs

Posted on December 31, 2009

PORTLAND – Coastal Conservation Association is launching a ballot initiative to help save the last remnants of Oregon’s iconic wild salmon runs, and to create a sustainable salmon fishery for current and future generations. The Protect Our Salmon Act would ban the use of gill nets and tangle nets in Oregon waters, including the Columbia River.  The Act calls for the use of commercial fishing practices that selectively harvest returning hatchery fish, while protecting endangered wild salmon, steelhead and other species.

“Oregon’s failure to protect and enhance our wild salmon runs threatens the state’s credibility as a leader in sustainability,” said Dave Schamp, Chairman of Coastal Conservation Association’s Oregon Board of directors and a chief petitioner of the initiative. “Each year taxpayers, electric utility rate payers and others collectively contribute about $1 billion to recovery efforts, yet wild salmon, an important natural and economic resource for our state, remain on the brink of extinction.”
While habitat, hydro and hatchery improvements are important to salmon recovery efforts, a key issue has been overlooked: the method of harvest. Currently, the commercial fishing gear used in the Columbia River (gill nets and tangle nets) is non-selective and kills large numbers of ESA-listed and wild salmon and steelhead. Gill nets are designed to “gill” fish snared in the nets, leading to injury, suffocation and death before unharmed release is possible. Nearly all marine life that gets caught in a gill net dies, from salmon and steelhead to seals and seabirds. Oregon is one of the few places in the country to still allow gill nets, a method clearly at odds with the state’s long-standing commitment to sustainable practices.  
To minimize any economic impact to commercial fishermen who currently use gill nets or tangle nets, the Act establishes a fund (and appropriate oversight) to compensate commercial fishermen for the transition to alternative, selective gear.
The Act does not affect any tribal fishing rights, or the right to use any fishing gear allowed under tribal fishing rights in the waters of the state of Oregon established by laws, treaty or otherwise.
CCA members will immediately begin to gather signatures to place this issue on the ballot in November of 2010.
“Banning the use of gill nets and tangle nets and using selective gear that allows for the release of wild fish is an effective, achievable way to create a sustainable commercial and recreational fishery for the citizens of Oregon,” said Schamp. “It provides a greater return on the investment that taxpayers have contributed to salmon recovery, and is consistent with Oregon’s commitment to the responsible and sustainable use of the state’s natural resources.”
Coastal Conservation Association is a non-profit organization comprised of 200 chapters in 17 coastal states spanning the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Pacific coasts. In 2007, CCA expanded into the Pacific Northwest and the organization has quickly grown to more than 9,000 members and continues to launch chapters in both Oregon and Washington. As the largest marine conservation organization in the country, CCA’s grassroots influence is felt through state capitals, U.S. Congress and, most importantly, in the conservation and restoration of our marine resources.
CONTACT: Bryan Irwin, 877-255-8772