Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Before I go any further with this entry I just want to make a few things clear. I believe that gill nets are an antiquated, non-selective fish killing tool. They kill indiscriminately any fish, wild or hathcery, salmon, steelhead or sturgeon, that encounters them. Their time as an efficient means of harvest has come and gone.
To put commercial gillnetting on the Columbia River in a historic perspective let me say that it is just a shadow of it's former self.
In years past they were indeed the scourge of the salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia.
The Barbee Seafood Company, parent company of Bumble Bee Tuna, of Astoria was the main employer of the region processing millions of pounds of gill netted and troll caught salmon and steelhead.
The gill netters have also had their fair share of salmon poachers and thieves among their group so this is not exactly a pristine, squeaky clean group.
In 1974 the people of the state of Oregon voted that the steelhead trout should be a game fish and could no longer be commercially caught.
This spelled the beginning of the end of gill netting as a commercially viable means of harvest and supplying fresh salmon for the dinner table. With the over all down turn of the over fished salmon runs in the Columbia the Barbee processing plants closed it's doors in Astoria for good.
The commercial gillnetting continues today but with a fraction of it's former fleet. Compared to their checkered past the commercial gill netters these days are but a small piece of the salmon down turn.
So with all that being said one would think that the gill nets have a minor effect on the overall well being of wild and hatchery salmon entering the big western river. That is the truth and in the whole scheme of salmon demise in the Columbia gill nets are a very minor player.
Face it! Columbia river salmon face a plethora of obstacles ranging from obsolete hydro dams to spawning habitat degradation. There is predation from birds and pinnipeds and ssshhhh we don't want to mention this but over fishing by sports anglers. Yes that is the dirty little secret that these spoiled rotten children AKA sports fishers conveniently overlook.
Enter 2007 and the Coastal Conservation Association.These saviors from the east claim they are going to kick the gill netters asses off of the river. Gary Loomis of Loomis Rods is their Northwest spokesman and what a charmer he is. He could sell ice trays to an Eskimo and the poor pitiful sports fishers have bought into his spiel hook, line and $25 membership fee.
Pretty clever tactic actually. They target the most visible "culprit" but ignore the most culpable reasons. Why is that? Could it be that CCA counts among it's life members GHW Bush and his monkey son George W? I bet Dick Cheney is a member too.
Could it be possible that the CCA is just a front for a bunch of rich Texas oilmen?
The CCA is full of members, in good standing, of that environmentally sympathetic group called the Republican Party!
So you might wonder why I am skeptical of this group and their agenda?
Bear in mind that the CCA is just another no show at the meetings and hearing that do not involve harvest. Their motto should be "If we can't kill it then we don't care"
So I am left to wonder when, if ever, the real culprits in the demise of Columbia river salmon will be exposed and incur the wrath of the mighty CCA. The real bad guy that has done more than any other group to bring about the fall of our once mighty salmon runs.
Who am I talking about? Well friends go take a look in the mirror.