Gillnetting is not a sustainable harvest method



In his article on Washington salmon fisheries management, Ed Johnstone calls for greater emphasis on habitat protection and restoration, not harvest management alone, to help recover sustainable runs of salmon [Commentary: Washington fisheries managed using a conservation-first approach, Nisqually Valley News, posted May 28, 2024, online]. I agree. But his article would be more persuasive if it did not wrongly claim “no one type of fishing gear is more sustainable than another” and “when seafood is harvested by treaty tribes — it meets the definition of sustainable.”

Treaty tribes use gillnets to commercially harvest salmon. And gillnets are not a method of sustainable harvest because gillnets are not a selective method of harvest. Gillnets capture and kill non-targeted fish, such as wild salmon and steelhead, when being deployed to catch targeted hatchery salmon. Clearly, salmon harvested by treaty tribes using gillnets does not meet the definition of sustainable because gillnetting does not minimize the mortality of endangered, non-targeted species and of wild fish. This fact should inform tribal and state co-managers as to the proper role of commercial gillnet fishing vis-à-vis fisheries management. A call for greater emphasis on restoring salmon habitat rings hollow in the face of continued support of non-sustainable gillnet harvesting.

Darryl Wareham