Oregon voters likely will decide this fall whether to ban gillnet fishing in the Columbia River and other state waters.
Campaigners say they turned in enough signatures Monday to qualify their gillnet ban as a ballot measure in the November election.
Oregon requires more than 87,000 valid signatures on petitions for initiatives that change state law.
Eric Stachon is spokesman for the Stop Gillnets Now Coalition. He said the group turned in more than 138,000 signatures to the Oregon Secretary of State. The ban applies to commercial but not tribal gillnetting.
A coalition supporting a ban on gillnet fishing says it’s turned in more than enough signed petition sheets to qualify for Oregon’s November ballot. Here are the pro and con sides:
Pro: The ban protects threatened and endangered wild salmon from the indiscriminate nets used by gillnetters. Campaign: Stop Gillnets Now Coalition.
Con: Fishing groups that are trying to ban competitors’ fishing practices so they can have more fish to catch. Campaign: Salmon For All.
“We’re very confident that that will, indeed, qualify us for the November ballot,” he said.
Stachon said backers see the measure as a way to protect the Columbia River’s 13 species of salmon and steelhead listed listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.
“What we’re trying to do is transition the commercial fishing operation to a more sustainable practice,” he said. “One that allows for a harvest of hatchery fish, but allows for threatened and endangered salmon to be captured and rereleased back into the river unharmed. That’s something that you can’t do with gillnets now.”
A group called Salmon For All represents Oregon gillnet fishers. Its spokesman, Hobe Kytr, said the group is prepared to campaign against the measure as a move to protect the self-interests of sport-fishermen and Washington gillnetters, who aren’t affected by the Oregon ban on practices in the Columbia River.
“It’s going to put hundreds of independent fishing families out of business and it won’t save a single fish,” he said. “It’s all about reallocating the consumer’s share of the Columbia River salmon to the sport fishery, because our fishermen are the surrogate for the consumers.”
The deadline to turn in signatures for ballot initiatives is Friday.
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