Salmon For All, All For the Salmon

Salmon For All, All For the Salmon

On the Oregon ballot this year is a measure titled Measure 81, it was created by a Texas based conservation organization called the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) in an effort to end commercial gillnetting on the Columbia River. Gillnetting was invented by Native Americans hundreds if not thousands of years ago and taught to European settlers along the Columbia River nearly two hundred years ago. Commercial gillnetters started organizing back in the 1860s and founded the Columbia River Fishermen’s Protective Union in 1884 which survives to this day. They have been fishing the waters of the lower Columbia ever since, catching fish to earn money to feed their families, and share a public resource with the public.

What will happen if this ban is approved is hundreds of small business owners (fishermen) will be immediately put out of business, these are often small one or two man operations, sometimes passed down for generations of families, and the families of these fishermen depend on the income. That will in turn affect every single business in Astoria and beyond, these small businesses will no longer be purchasing gear for their operations, they will no longer have that income in which to survive, this will affect fish processors, canneries, and fish markets, as well as banks, clothing stores, auto dealers, grocers and most dramatically restaurants.

Oregon restaurants will be forced to pay exorbitant prices for fish or they will have to rely on far away suppliers, often foreign and worse yet, large fishing ships that instead of catching a few fish at a time literally sweep the ocean from the water’s surface to the sea floor, destroying reefs, and creating countless tons of waste, as the marine life they are not in the market for is ground up and spit back into the ocean by the ton. Many of the local restaurants and coastal restaurants in Oregon that specialize in local fish will end up closing, many will not be able to afford the much higher priced fish shipping from Alaska, and many will not be willing to sell fish caught by China and other nations in these giant wasteful fishing ships.

This will devastate Astoria and Clatsop County, it will harm tourism, and it will destroy families, is this what we want in Oregon? You might be saying, “But the Salmon will be saved!”  Actually no, the same number of salmon will still be pulled from the river, but instead of being pulled by commercial fisherman and sportsmen, only sport fishermen will be allowed to catch salmon on the Columbia River, this may improve tourism in the short term, but when these sport fisherman pull into a ghost town with hungry unemployed people milling about and few businesses to enjoy, they will not want to return. In fact they may become a target of hostility to many affected by this change of life on the river.

Gillnetters and commercial fisherman in general have a deep love and respect for the ocean the Columbia River and the fish that sustain them, they are often the greatest conservationists when it comes to protecting fisheries, and a good portion of the costs involved in gillnetting goes into protection and conservation of these fish. If we lose commercial gillnetting or have it severely cut as Governor Kitzhaber suggests, the expenses of protecting and sustaining the fisheries will fall on the shoulders of tax payers who may or may not enjoy salmon at all, it will become a burden on the public, and if the public refuses to support such a cost, then no one will be protecting the salmon, and where will that leave these marvelous creatures?

Ending commercial gillnetting on the Columbia River serves no one, not even the fish, it destroys a culture that has survived for hundreds of years, it jeopardizes the rights of Native Americans, as eventually they too will be targeted, and it will act as a disaster to the community on which salmon is so heavily based. Astoria’s delicate economy is just gaining a footing after losing all but a few small canneries over the decades, it is building new industries and is becoming a destination for people to visit and enjoy, to eliminate gillnetting as a commercial venture will put an end to all of the progress this city has made, and it will affect all of Clatsop County and much of the coast of Oregon, as people wanting to enjoy local delicacies such as Spring Chinook will now turn to Washington and California instead.

Astoria TV stands behind gillnetters, and urges you to vote NO on Measure 81, stop the unnecessary destruction of this indigenous way of life. And, stop the Governor from making a grave mistake that will impact an entire community in devastating ways.

By Amy Bugbee

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