If passed through Oregon's 76th State Legislature, Senate Bill 736
has the potential for making some changes regarding commercial fishing in the Columbia River
. The bill would prohibit gill net fishing in the lower Columbia River except in "off-channel fishery enhancement areas" which would be specified by the State Fish and Wildlife Commission. If passed the Bill would also declare emergency which would become effective January 1, 2012.
One of the purposes of this Bill is to slow the over-fishing of salmon in the area. The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. It starts its journey in British Columbia, Canada, coming down through Washington State and then following the border between Washington and Oregon where it flows into the Pacific Ocean. In the early 20th century, dams were built all across the river used for power generation, irrigation, flood control and even navigation.
Salmon populations began to decline as canneries opened up around 1867 and commercial fishing became widespread in the river. The fish had originally been a main source of food for the surrounding Native American tribes, but as foreigners began taking over the river, their impact could be seen on all of the anadromous fish populations, which migrate from the sea to fresh water in order to spawn.
Oregonians passed various laws over the years in an attempt to stabilize the rapidly-declining salmon population as well as other fish populations in the Columbia such as steelhead. One such initiative after many dams had been constructed was the creation of fish ladders. Dams severely impede the migration of fish and these ladders attempt to make it a little easier for the fish to get over the dam as they travel upstream. However, these laws were only marginally effective.
In 1994, the decline of the salmon population instigated the prohibition of all commercial fishing throughout the Columbia River which helped the salmon population, but the ban was only in place for one year. Currently, salmon populations continue to be at dangerously low numbers. For this reason the state of Oregon is trying, once again, to limit gill net fishing in the river.
I would honestly like to see this bill as an effective tool to aid fish populations throughout the Columbia, but it seems like much of the damage has already been done, with the countless dams along the river greatly impacting migrating fish populations such as salmon. It may be a case of too little, too late.