Court of Appeals Denies Gillnetters’ Request to Delay Columbia River Fishery Reforms

Ruling ensures Columbia River gillnet reform rules will continue to be implemented while the gillnetters’ challenge to the rules is considered by the Court.

Posted on October 25, 2013

Salem, Ore. – In a victory for conservationists, yesterday the Oregon Court of Appeals denied a request by commercial gillnet interests to stay implementation of the landmark Columbia River fishery reform rules recently approved by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. The rules call for the removal of non-tribal gillnets from the mainstem of the lower Columbia River and restrict them to enhanced off-channel areas where this non-selective form of fishing gear will encounter and kill fewer wild and endangered fish. The rules also anticipate the continued development of selective commercial fishing gears and a recreational priority for mainstem fisheries.


“We are pleased with this decision from the Oregon Court of Appeals and what it means for the continued implementation of the Columbia River fishery reform rules that were proposed by Governor Kitzhaber, adopted after months of extensive bi-state negotiations, and affirmed by large bipartisan votes in Oregon’s Legislature,” said Dave Schamp, CCA Oregon’s Chairman. “We’re are particularly encouraged that in reaching its decision the Court concluded that gillnet interests were not likely to prevail in their challenge to the rules and that their claims of imminent economic harm weren’t compelling.”


Earlier this year, the Oregon and Washington Fish and Wildlife commissions adopted a compromise plan proposed by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber that prioritizes recreational fisheries in the mainstem of the Columbia River and eliminates the use of non-tribal gillnets in the lower Columbia’s mainstem after a transition period. The plan also calls for the enhancement of off-channel commercial gillnet fishing areas and the use of alternative, selective commercial fishing gears. The Governor’s plan was unprecedented, and was offered in the wake of CCA Oregon’s successful efforts to put a gill net ban initiative on the Oregon ballot last November. Unlike the ballot initiative, however, the Governor's plan resulted in both states adopting a plan that eliminates the use of non-selective gill nets.


Commercial gillnet interests in both states subsequently filed lawsuits challenging the new reforms and in response CCA Oregon and CCA Washington formally intervened in both cases. CCA Oregon has hired a top-notch legal team and is the only organization in a position to represent the interests of its members, recreational anglers, and the conservation of these fisheries in the lawsuits. The challenge to the rules in the State of Washington was dismissed on August 24 by the

Thurston County Superior Court, although gillnet interests have appealed that decision to the Washington Court of Appeals.


“We welcome this positive development in Oregon following the dismissal of the case in Washington a couple of months ago,” said Dave Schamp. “We are confident that the gillnet reform rules will be upheld, but we are also certain that we’ll have to defend against further obstruction and delay tactics by the gillnet lobby – we will be prepared to meet them.”


The gillnet interests that filed the stay motion have 14 days to decide whether or not to file for reconsideration of the Court’s decision.


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