Take Action to Reduce Harvest Impacts on Columbia River Steelhead

In Washington by Alexei Calambokidis

On Thursday, February 2, the Washington State Legislature will have its first hearing on SB 5297, the bill to limit non-tribal commercial gillnetting in the Columbia River mainstem.  

Wild Steelheaders United has been working to reduce the impacts of these unselective fisheries, and now is an important opportunity for supporters to have their voice heard in the legislature.  

SB 5297, titled “Concerning nontribal commercial salmon fisheries in Washington waters of the Columbia River” will have a public hearing on February 2 at 1:30 pm in the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources, and Parks Committee and will be streamed live on TVW. The bill is prime sponsored by Senator Kevin Van De Wege (D-24), chair of the Committee, and has bipartisan co-sponsorship. It comes at the request of Governor Jay Inslee. 

This bill expands on the advocacy Wild Steelheaders and other partner organizations have put in over the last several years, following the WDFW Fish and Wildlife Commission’s policy change in 2020 that brought these fisheries back into the Lower Columbia mainstem.  

You can learn more about the details of the bill in our previous blog post on the topic here.  

If passed, SB 5297 would protect, and build upon, the conservation benefits to endangered steelhead and salmon populations set aside by the $14.4-mil. Columbia River gillnet license buyback program that was funded in 2022. Without the bill, it is possible WDFW would be able to reallocate the impacts originally reserved for conservation if they choose to do so, a fact that came to light publicly during a recent work session in the Washington Senate with WDFW staff on the implementation of the buyback program.  

Legislators need to hear that this bill is important to the public!  

To support this legislation in the committee hearing, sign-up here and select the position of “Pro” to have your name recorded in support on the legislative record.

Watch the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources, and Parks Committee hearing on SB 5297 on Thursday, February 2, 1:30 pm.