The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

County board voices opposition to bill to end non-tribal gillnetting


March 14, 2019

Wahkiakum County commissioners on Tuesday agreed to contact the state senate to oppose legislation that would outlaw non-tribal gillnet commercial fisheries in Washington Jan. 1, 2023, and establish a buyout program for retiring licenses by Dec. 31, 2022.

Proponents say gillnets are non-selective gear that ensnare wild and endangered salmon and with other species, they are not a good management, and they adversely impact the recreational fishing industry.

Senate Bill 5617 would also establish a three-tier program to buy out gillnetters' licenses from willing sellers. During 2020, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) would buy licenses of willing sellers for 3.5 times the individual gill net license holder's average annual ex-vessel value from the salmon landed in Washington from 2014 through 2018 or for $1,000 for a license holder who has not landed any salmon in Washington from 2014 through 2018. Compensation would decrease incrementally in 2021 and 2022.

Wahkiakum county Commissioners Dan Cothren, Mike Backman and Gene Strong joined those opposing the measure.

In a letter to members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, commissioners asked that the group not move the bill forward. They point out that Washington and Oregon fishery managers have backed off plans to reduce gillnetting in the Columbia because alternative gear haven't proven any more effective than gillnets, that the practice is ineffective in managing hatchery fish, that the bill doesn't consider the financial and cultural impacts on fishing communities, and that the buyback program doesn't adequately compensate fishers for ending their livelihood.

"The current ‘buy-back' program of the bill is incredibly inadequate, to the point of being offensive," the commissioners say in the letter.

According to background nformation on the state senate website, "An annual resident salmon gill net license is $380, a non resident license is $765, with a $100 surcharge and $105 application fee. In 2017, there were approximately 247 commercial salmon gill net fisheries licenses in the Columbia River, Grays Harbor, and Willapa Bay fisheries, and 189 in Puget Sound."


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