In an astoundingly ignorant and heavy-handed display of putting urban political correctness ahead of rural jobs, Gov. Kate Brown last week dictated that the citizen members of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission reverse their January decision that gave commercial fishermen a minimally fair share of the Columbia River’s salmon allocation.
Addressing commissioners as if they are misbehaving children, Brown told Chairman Michael Finley the commission majority’s acknowledgment of reality is “not acceptable” and that “I expect” the commission to acquiesce to her interpretation of the facts by April 3.
The commission agreed at a meeting on Friday in Tigard to take up the issue in March.
Many of the most important facts are not in dispute: Former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s dictated abandonment of decades of carefully nuanced salmon policy has not worked. Kicking commercial fishermen off the Columbia’s main stem as of Dec. 31, 2016, as Kitzhaber’s plan called for, is manifestly unjust and will hurt the economy of Clatsop County and other fishing-dependent communities.
Fish and Wildlife Commission members are in an infinitely better position to judge the ineffectiveness of salmon policies than is the governor. They know that alternatives such as seine nets operated from boats and the shore have been a clear disappointment. Off-channel locations where nets might be deployed to catch only hatchery fish are in short supply. State legislators and agencies have failed to keep financial promises to fishing families.
The commission’s former chairman was enthusiastic in applauding the January vote to back away from a rigid deadline to transition gillnets off the river. Salmon gillnets, in modern usage, are not the “walls of death” railed against by the governor’s urban friends, but are instead carefully crafted to catch a strictly limited number of hatchery salmon. Time, area and gear restrictions — including live recovery boxes for any accidentally caught naturally spawning salmon — limit impacts on wild fish.
In truth, the anti-gillnetting drive has never been about conservation, but about salving tender Portland sensitivities while delivering more salmon to recreational fishermen, especially those affiliated with the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, which owes its existence to fat-cat Texas oilmen.
Brown’s interference in this matter is a prime example of why some Democrats now struggle to connect with working people. Yes, all Oregonians want recreational fishing to prosper. But by rejecting any compromise on behalf of hardworking commercial fishermen, Brown places herself solidly against jobs for struggling rural voters. We all should remember that come Election Day.