LONGVIEW — Gillnet fishermen filed a petition Monday asking a Washington Superior Court to review recent Columbia River policy changes.

The petitioners, who are Washington residents, filed to “seek the court’s determination that the regulation is invalid.”

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the regulation changes Jan. 12.

The shift in policy moves commercial gillnet fishing off of the main stem of the Columbia River during a transition period ending in 2017. The policy allows for commercial fishing in off-channel sites and institutes the testing of alternative gear. The policy also includes allocation shifts, allowing a greater percentage for recreational fishermen on the river.

Gillnet fishermen from Oregon and Washington turned up during a three-month-long set of work group meetings between the states’ fish and wildlife departments. The commercial fishermen expressed that they would be adversely affected by the changes.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the policy Dec. 7. The Oregon Court of Appeals is reviewing the changes to Oregon’s policy as requested by local petitioners Steve Fick, owner of Fishhawk Fisheries, and Jim Wells, president of Salmon For All.

The court issued a stay on enforcement of Oregon’s version of the policy while they review the case.

Robert Sudar, a petitioner from Longview, was a commercial adviser during the work group sessions last fall. Sudar, a fish buyer and marketer, is cited in the petition, which says that his business operations occur primarily in the lower Columbia River and involve commercial fisheries affected by the regulations.

The petition states that the Washington commission exceeded its authority by adopting the rules because it conflicts with the commission’s mandate to “maintain a stable fishing industry in the state.”

“By depriving commercial fishers of a critical and well-established means of fishing, the regulation destabilizes the fishing industry,” the petition states.

“Commercial fisheries in Washington harvest fish for the consuming public, which allows all Washingtonians to have access to the resources of the Columbia River.”

The petition also states that for generations Washington allowed commercial fishermen and the public a significant and equal share of the fisheries and allowed gillnetting.

“The regulation effectively abolishes that tradition and causes irreparable economic devastation for these commercial fisheries and the coastal communities that depend on them,” the petition states.

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