Friday, November 2, 2012

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.

Neither 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 servings
  •  meals at $30/dinner = $15,300 in sales 

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 fish.
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.

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