Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association Vacates Bi-State "Visioning" Process

Oregon City, OR – Citing a shift from the original intent of the process among a long list of other concerns, the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association has elected to leave the bi-state “visioning process” that was developed by the Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife.

The “visioning process” as it’s been dubbed, originally sought to bring historically adversarial sport fishing and commercial fishing communities together to mend long-standing conflicts between the groups. Rod Sando, past director of Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources as well as past director of Idaho Fish and Game commented, “Unfortunately, although the Visioning Process started as a project to develop a long range vision for managing the lower Columbia fisheries has now morphed into a process that will install a ten year fishery management plan or status quo with a ten year commitment—It’s the no-change alternative.”

Dan Parnell, President of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association said, “We were the ones who originally pushed for a process that brought these two communities to the table to discuss their differences as well as issues of mutual benefit. The idea was to open a line of communication and begin talking. Early in this process we became concerned that the make-up of the group and intent of the process was deviating sharply from its’ original vision…that is, to start building bridges and finding ways we can begin working together. The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, along with 12 other organizations, signed onto a letter with recommendations for an enhanced process, and forwarded it to both Washington and Oregon’s fish and wildlife commissions. To date, neither commission has answered our concerns or discussed their thoughts with us. It’s clear to us, and others in this process, that we’re being guided towards some predetermined outcome which is unfortunate given our willingness and desire to overcome these decades-old issues.”

Jim Martin, retired Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Chief of Fisheries and current Conservation Director for Pure Fishing, the world’s largest tackle company added, “Now is the time for some bold leadership to shape fisheries for the future. Working on a ten year fishery management plan for continued main stem gillnetting by non-Indian commercial fishermen is not the change that is needed. Conservation is always job one, but economics is next. The current financial situation of the department is partially a result of wasting license sales and wasting economic value to Oregon by managing main stem Columbia River gillnetting at the expense of our tourist economy, when a successful commercial and sport fishery can occur by moving the gillnets to the select areas. The departments seem unable to embrace and lead real change…there is no point in continuing a process that is committed to continuing the status quo and avoiding real change. It is time to move to the Legislatures and to the people for solutions.”

The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association represents more than 300 sport fishing-related businesses across the region. Sport fishing in the northwest provides direct employment to more than 36,000 people in the northwest and generates an economic benefit in excess of $3 billion a year. Abbreviated salmon seasons, continuing concerns with the Bonneville Power Administration’s hydro practices, debilitating federal policies that have escalated recent declines in salmon and continuing conservation issues at the state level have combined to deal the industry its’ most significant challenges ever.

Northwest Sportfishing Industry Executive Director Liz Hamilton finished by saying, “The resource has to win for us to win. Thankfully, we have a good many partners in the conservation, business, outdoor communities and other industries but the ‘vision’ should rest in restoring the region’s salmon resources that are in decline. Too much emphasis is given to allocating a declining resource and not nearly enough to recovering it. We pray Oregon and Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commissions have the leadership and courage to embrace a vision that restores northwest salmon. Ultimately, that’s the legacy we can all be proud of. The benefits of this legacy will be incalculable with restored tourism to the region’s coastal and rural communities and a vibrant Sportfishing industry that benefits and touches hundreds of other industries across this great region.”