Lawsuit Challenging Gillnet Ban Dismissed

Court’s ruling confirms historic Columbia River gillnet reform policy

Posted on August 13, 2013

Commission. The policy seeks to remove non-tribal gillnets from the mainstem of the lower Columbia River and restrict them to off-channel areas where this non-selective form of gear would encounter and kill fewer wild and endangered fish. The policy also anticipates the continued development of selective commercial fishing gears for mainstem commercial fisheries.

“We’re excited about the Judge’s decision and what it means for the continued implementation of the historic changes for Columbia River fisheries,” said Nello Picinich, CCA Washington’s Executive Director. “This has been a lengthy process and we’re committed to seeing that the gillnet ban is fully implemented. With this decision in Washington, we are in an even better position to achieve a similar result in Oregon gillnet litigation.”

Earlier this year, the Washington and Oregon Fish and Wildlife commissions adopted a 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 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 Washington and CCA Oregon formally intervened in the cases. CCA Washington retained former Supreme Court Justice and State Senator Phil Talmadge to represent recreational anglers in the Washington lawsuit, which culminated with the court’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit.

“This is a good outcome, but from our experiences with gillnet bans in other states, we anticipate further legal maneuvers in both states,” said Nello Picinich, “and will certainly be prepared to meet them.”

The gillnet interests that filed the lawsuit have 30 days to decide whether or not to appeal the Court’s ruling.