Friday January 20, 2023

The Columbian

Now equipped with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s support, long-awaited legislation to remove nontribal gillnets from the lower Columbia River may be a step closer to reality.

Senate Bill 5297, introduced to the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks committee last week, would remove nontribal mainstem gillnet use in the Columbia River downstream of Bonneville Dam to off-channel locations beginning in 2025. Tribal gillnetting in the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day reservoirs would be unaffected by the bill.

Gillnetting is a method of fishing that utilizes a long panel of nylon mesh anchored in a body of water. The netting is large enough for a fish’s head to swim through, but not its body. After lodging itself into a net’s hole, a fish cannot easily escape, as its gills get caught by the mesh.

The legislation followed the recent implementation of Washington’s voluntary buyback program, which spent $14.2 million on halting 85 percent of active state-issued Columbia River gillnet licenses. For two consecutive years, Inslee vetoed the program but opted to support the effort and is now advocating for the removal of gillnets.

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