We begin this year's round of election recommendations with a gimme: A ballot measure no longer supported even by its chief backers.
Measure 81 would prohibit nontribal gillnet fishing on the Columbia River in Oregon, and ban the sale of salmon caught in gillnets or tangle nets in the state.
The reason for this initiative is ostensibly to save threatened wild salmon from being inadvertently killed, and protect birds, mammals and nongame fish that supposedly get caught and drowned in these nets. But state and federal fisheries authorities say birds almost are never caught in nets on the Columbia, and mammals such as beavers are rarely snared either.
In addition, many commercial fishermen already use specially designed tangle nets that let wild fish survive to be released back into the river.
Another major flaw in the measure is that it would apply only to fishing conducted on the Oregon side of the river. Oregon cannot pass laws that apply to Washington residents unless the two states come to an agreement or if Washington has a similar law on its books.
That means commercial fishing outfits based in Washington could continue to use gillnets on the Washington side of the river. Not only would that put Oregon's commercial fishermen at a competitive disadvantage, it would deprive Oregon residents of Columbia River spring chinook salmon, which no longer could be sold legally in the state.
Gov. John Kitzhaber has stepped into this dispute, saying he has a better way to approach the problem. The governor filed his own statement for the voter's pamphlet, saying Measure 81 "will further divide Oregonians instead of advancing economic and conservation gains that a more thoughtful effort can achieve."
Kitzhaber proposes limiting gillnet fishing to off-channel areas of the river that would let wild fish runs through while still providing a commercial harvest. He has asked the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to take action by the end of the year.
On Sept. 10, the coalition backing the measure officially withdrew its support in favor of the governor's approach. A statement posted on the group's website, stopgillnets.com, said, "Today, in response to a request made by Governor Kitzhaber that all parties work in good faith to resolve this issue through the commission process, and in recognition of his strong leadership to find a path of compromise toward sustainable management of the Columbia River, the Stop Gillnets Now Coalition and the Coastal Conservation Association are announcing that we are taking the unprecedented step of ending our campaign in support of Measure 81. As of today, we will shift our efforts toward supporting the governor's plan and the commission's work to implement this new policy.
Who are we to argue? The Mail Tribune Editorial Board recommends a no vote on Measure 81.