Will the New Washington Governor Ban Gillnets on the Columbia?

The general election won’t be until next Tuesday, but some
disturbing policy decisions of the Washington State Governor’s race seem
already decided. In cooperation with Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and the
sport-fishing lobby, the new governor will support the closing of the mainstem
of the Columbia River to commercial gillnetters.
Washington Anglers PAC, a political action committee comprised of, and funded by, the
recreational fishing lobby, got both candidates for governor to endorse the closure
of the river to commercial gillnetters.
In a
questionnaire to both candidates released by the PAC, Democrat Jay Inslee said
he’s pleased that the ban
only addresses non-tribal fishing. Republican Rob McKenna also supports the
ban, and says he favors gillnet fleet reduction and license buyback programs.
candidate has sought input from the commercial fishing sector, nor has anyone
in the campaign of either candidate responded to questions from the commercial
fishing industry.
Are the
candidates instead basing their decision on the campaign contributions from the
sportfishing PAC?
Or are they
getting their information from the discredited but widely distributed report
from the State of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife?
In the April,
2012 issue of Fishermen’s News, we
described a presentation made to the Washington State Senate Natural Resource committee at a
workshop on Washington State fisheries
economic impacts in late February.
Robert Sudar, a longtime Washington State commercial
fisherman and a member of the Columbia River Commercial Advisory Group, offered
an example of a catch from 2011, when he purchased 83 spring chinook during two
short openings between March 30th and April 6th.
Sudar’s 83 fish totaled 1,143.2 lbs. and brought $8,860 to
the harvester and $500 in fish taxes to the State.
Two fish (27
lbs.) were shared by four local families who used them for family celebrations.
  • 640.9 lbs.
    went to grocery stores and fish markets between Tacoma and Edmonds.
  • 640.9 lbs. at 70% yield = 448.6 lbs.
    of fillets to sell
  • 448.6 lbs. at $25/lb. (minimum) =
    $16,022 in sales
  • 448.6 lbs. = almost 900 one-half
    pound servings
  • 365.3 lbs.
    went to restaurants in Seattle.
  • 365.3 lbs. at 70% yield = 255.7 lbs.
    of fillets
  • 255.7 lbs. = 510 one-half pound
  •  meals at $30/dinner = $15,300 in

In summary,
those 83 chinook (less than 5% of the fleet’s harvest) generated more than
$10,000 for the local community, $500 in fish taxes to the State, more than
$31,000 in sales at fish markets and restaurants and more than 1,400 meals. The
numbers are even more impressive when extrapolated for the 2012 Columbia River non-tribal
chinook harvest, which was 45,270 fish, at an average weight of 17.5 lbs. per
A conservative estimate shows a value to the local community
of $6 million, sales at markets and restaurants of $18.5 million, and almost a
million meals of healthy, delicious, locally harvested wild pacific salmon.
Given that the economic impact of the sustainable harvested
Columbia River commercial gillnet fishery is close to $25 million dollars per
year, it seems both Inslee and McKenna would rather have the campaign
contributions from the sport lobby than the economic benefits from the sustainably
and responsibly managed commercial fishery. It’s not too late to affect the
election. Contact either or both candidates via letter, phone call or visit to
explain to him the benefits of a strong, sustainable industry to the State of
Washington and its residents.