Tribes call for partnerships to rebuild runs.
Portland, Oregon – The Columbia River treaty fishing tribes today announced their opposition to Oregon Ballot Measure 81. Resolutions passed by the governing bodies of the Yakama, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Nez Perce tribes cite the measure’s lack of emphasis on rebuilding abundant, sustainable salmon populations.
“Ballot Measure 81 does not save fish or fishing communities,” said N. Kathryn Brigham, chairwoman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “All it does is reshuffle who gets to catch the fish in the Lower Columbia. It doesn’t change how many fish can be caught and it doesn’t help rebuild salmon runs. Tribal, state, and federal co-managers carefully balance sport, commercial, and tribal fisheries with successful restoration efforts that are rebuilding upriver salmon runs. We have fought over fisheries allocations in the past and fighting over who gets to catch the fish doesn’t help build the necessary partnerships we need to restore and protect salmon. This ballot measure is just an allocation fight in the lower river, but it also distracts from the goal of developing healthy and sustainable salmon populations throughout the Columbia River Basin.”
For over thirty years, the tribes have been working to put fish back in the rivers and protect the watersheds where fish live. They developed management plans that have been conserving and improving tens of thousands of acres of salmon habitat and using hatcheries as wild salmon nurseries that are designed to improve juvenile survival and increase returns of naturally spawning salmon to healthy habitat over time.
These cooperative efforts are working.
Wild spring chinook salmon are returning to restored ecosystems in the Umatilla, Walla Walla, Yakima, and Klickitat basins.
Coho in the Wenatchee, Yakama, Clearwater and Umatilla rivers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho are now abundant due to the tribes’ efforts.
In the Snake River Basin, the fall run of chinook has been brought back from the brink of extinction. In 1990, only 78 wild fall chinook crossed Lower Granite Dam. Last year, more than 10,000 wild fall chinook passed that dam.
“While we still have a lot of work to do, it is clear from the data that salmon runs are rebuilding in the Columbia River Basin,” said Brigham. “We all need to be working together to rebuild abundance. That is the only way we will truly be successful.”
The tribes’ fisheries co-management authority is protected under the treaties signed in 1855 that reserved the right of taking fish at all usual and accustomed places. The United States Supreme Court has confirmed these rights in seven separate cases spanning more than 100 years. The current co-management framework governing mainstem Columbia River fisheries has been adopted by federal court orders.