The concept of heritage means different things to different people, but surely at its core for the communities of the Lower Columbia is a suite of traditional commercial fishing activities. Subtract the houses and businesses built with salmon proceeds from our waterfronts and hillsides, and there would be little left.
This heritage of wresting a living from dangerous waters lives on today, even if at drastically reduced levels from the 1880s or even the 1950s. The Lower Columbia without gillnet boats and the fresh salmon they provide for local households would be a poorer place, more generic and sadly shorn of a significant slice of vitality and personality.
Nor would the end of commercial salmon fishing be unnoticed in terms of economic impacts. Gone forever are the times when hundreds of small boats set sail for the fishing grounds, but spring and summer salmon are especially big income sources.
The proposal being voted on next week by Oregon and Washington fisheries managers to decimate the share of salmon available to commercial fishermen stops just short of outright killing this piece of our heritage. The new rules have been portrayed as displeasing sportsmen as well, but this really is only empty posturing. Fact of the matter is, this will largely turn gillnetting from an industry into a hobby.
The governors and the games and fish commissions they appoint are not serving us well when it comes to balancing the urban/rural salmon allocation. More Chinook for Portland and Vancouver weekenders will mean a lessened Lower Columbia.