In the 2024 short legislative session in Oregon, State Senators Fred Girod and Jeff Golden introduced legislation that will pave the way for an Oregon-led Columbia River gill net buyback program, an issue that CCA Oregon is intensely focused on.

In late January, Senate Bill 1509 was introduced to eliminate current state law requiring the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to sell new gill net permits when the number of valid gill net permits fall below 200. The bill would also require ODFW to convene a stakeholder group to develop a gill net buyback proposal for consideration by the 2025 legislative session.

Those working on behalf of harvest reforms recognize this is just the first step. Assuming it passes in the short session, the real work begins. Both Girod and Golden will likely be at the forefront of passing an actual gill net buyback in 2025.

As of now, the bill has bipartisan support. It does not go unnoticed that Girod is a Republican from the Willamette Valley and Golden is a Democrat from southern Oregon. Golden chairs the Senate Natural Resources Committee, while Girod is the vice-chair.
According to Golden’s website this is “another step in the long, sometimes fractious campaign to reduce commercial gillnetting in the mainstem of the Columbia River.”

While the bill would not affect traditional tribal practices, it would permanently stop the issuance of new gill net permits valid in the lower Columbia River. It would also complement a recent Washington State program to buy out existing permits, which reduced the number in Washington from 240 to 67. There are 280 current gill net licenses in Oregon.

“I think 2025 is going to be pivotal,” says Shawn Miller at Miller Public Affairs. Miller is the chief strategist for CCA Oregon. “Not only with passing a buyback program but getting the funding for it. Washington has done it, and Oregon needs to get its act together.”

Along with gaining public support, which Miller says there’s plenty, much of it will come down to whether Oregon Governor Tina Kotek and the Legislature include the funding into the 2025 budget.

“We’re building momentum now so we can get it done,” adds Miller.