Stop Gill Nets on the Columbia River

Last Friday WDFW Commissioners voted 5 to 4 to allow commercial gill nets on the Columbia River. These outdated nets slaughter any and all species that get caught in them. Help us reverse this destructive decision.

Contact your legislators and tell them you are against gill nets which are outmoded, non-selective methods of harvesting fish. Better, selective, methods that only harvest allowed species are already in use by commercial fisheries.

Thank Commissioners Smith, Graybill, Baker, and Carpenter for voting against allowing gill nets back into the Columbia.

It’s not just we volunteers ar your Seattle Cascade TU chapter who are against this. Scientists, politicians, and other stakeholders are against it, too.

WDFW’s Proposed Columbia River Fishery Policy C-3620 What Others Are Saying

15 Washington State Senators; 21 Washington State Representatives

“While the fundamental components of the reforms remain sound, WDFW has not implemented key aspects of the reforms, including pursuing a gillnet license buyback and correcting agency errors toward implementing alternative, selective commercial fishing gears.

Instead of committing to addressing these failures, the draft policy being considered by the Commission abandons the reforms and opens the door to year-round gillnetting in the mainstem Columbia River. The draft policy is also inconsistent with the legal requirements in place in the State of Oregon, setting the stage for a possible break in concurrent management for the first time since the Columbia River Compact was adopted in 1915.”

“Adopting a policy that formally abandons the bi-state Columbia River reforms will elicit strong opposition to any fee increase legislation, which could have serious implications for WDFW’s 2021-2023 operating budget as the state grapples with reduced revenues due to COVID-19.”

100+ Sportfishing/Conservation Organizations and Businesses

“The CRW proposal cuts mark-selective recreational fisheries during both the spring and summer – January 1 through July 31 – and replaces them with mainstem gillnet fisheries that are either less selective (i.e., “tangle nets”) or completely non-selective. At a time when many stocks of Columbia River wild salmon, wild steelhead and sturgeon are seeing dramatic declines, the CRW proposal would reduce the selectivity of Columbia River fisheries, increase bycatch of non-target species like sturgeon, and expose ESA-listed salmon and steelhead to additional mortalities in mainstem gillnet fisheries.”

“Instead of compromising on conservation and devolving Columbia River fisheries into conflict and chaos, we urge the Commission to adopt a policy consistent with the State of Oregon’s rules, and which also includes a plan for fully transitioning gillnets out of the lower mainstem Columbia River.”

Trout Unlimited

“With most wild stocks of salmon and steelhead within the Columbia River Basin being listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and recently experiencing some of the worst returns on record, we strongly encourage you to reconsider this shift in policy, uphold the intention as the original policy stated, and not restore year-round non-tribal commercial gill netting to the mainstem Columbia River.”

“First, we have a serious concern with the lack of studies and understanding about the gill net release mortality impacts on by-catch, particularly the unknown impacts to wild summer steelhead.”

“This dearth of necessary data and studies to fully understand the mortality rates of the non-selective gill net fisheries on by-catch is compounded by the lack of onboard vessel monitoring during these fisheries and is our belief leads to a severe under-reporting of summer steelhead by-catch. Based on a

presentation from WDFW staff at a November 3, 2018 Commission meeting, observations of traditional mainstem Chinook salmon gillnet fishery have occurred during only six seasons in the past 23 years. This lack of onboard monitoring and associated reporting only highlights our concerns with under-reported by-catch and release mortality rates.”


“We have not heard a single argument put forward by the CRW for how the proposed changes to fisheries management will improve the conservation of Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead populations. Instead, we have heard terms like “no additional fishing pressure” and staying under the “ESA impact limits” included in no jeopardy biological opinions from NOAA Fisheries. This does not represent a forward-looking approach to conservation, including considering how fisheries should bemanaged to help meet wild fish escapement and pHOS objectives.”

“Is the Washington Commission willing to compromise on its conservation mandate, risk breaking concurrent management with the State of Oregon, and undermine its support with the public, the recreational fishing community, conservation organizations, and elected officials for an additional estimated $133,000 in annual ex-vessel value for a handful of gillnet license-holders and commercial fish buyers?”

Wild Fish Conservancy

“We would further like to draw to your attention the fact that gill net release mortality impacts currently remain unstudied and unknown for critical bycatch stocks such as ESA-listed wild steelhead. As we have

conducted our selective gear research and navigated the peer-review process, we have gained insight into the U.S. v. OR Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) gear mortality review process and observed unequivocally that currently approved steelhead mortality rates for gill nets are based on assumptions, with no grounding in gill net release mortality data or sound science (ODFW and WDFW 2018).”

“Back-tracking on your commitment to mark-selective fisheries in the mainstem Columbia River will likely increase escapement of hatchery fishes to wild salmonid spawning grounds, with measurable impacts to the reproductive success and survival of future wild populations (Chilcote et al. 2011; Christie et al. 2013). Furthermore, a shift back to mainstem non-selective fisheries will result in mixed-stock harvest of more wild-origin fishes of both ESA-listed and unlisted populations – including non-targetspecies like steelhead.”

Wild Salmon Center

“There have been immense sacrifices made throughout the region to try and give salmon and steelhead a chance. Salmon recovery efforts led by Tribes and local government have been key in keeping funding and attention focused on restoring these runs. Both the federal and state government have spent millions to improve monitoring, implement habitat restoration projects and improve pacific salmon treaty harvest management activities. Now is not the time to throw these investments away.”

Post image courtesy of and copyright by SCTU chapter member “cj”, ©2020. Thanks, CJ!