SPOKANE (AP) -- Commercial net fishing for salmon should be shut down as a way to restore endangered runs without removing dams, Republican candidate for governor John Carlson says.
His ban on net fishing would cover both Indians and non-Indians, Carlson said Wednesday at a news conference along the falls of the Spokane River, where generations of Indians used to catch salmon.
''What other endangered species can be legally trapped in large numbers while traveling to lay its eggs?'' Carlson said. ''It makes no sense to regulate salmon habitat on land while allowing thousands of yards of gill nets to be stretched across salmon habitat in the water.''
But salmon regulators said fishing by Indians is protected by treaties and federal court decisions. Biologists have also said that ending all fishing would not save wild salmon.
''That's a very simplistic solution that simply isn't going to work and doesn't even recognize the problems with salmon in the state of Washington,'' Democratic Gov. Gary Locke said.
Like Carlson, Locke opposes breaching the four Snake River dams in Washington.
Many salmon runs in the Northwest, including nine on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, are listed as threatened or endangered by the federal government.
Biologists say salmon have been harmed by a number of factors, including dams, fishing, pollution and poor land-use practices. There's growing evidence that poor ocean conditions also contributed to the decline, as well as competition from hatchery fish.
Washington voters last year rejected Initiative 696, a proposal to ban commercial fishing by non-tribal fishermen. Carlson said he believes the initiative would have passed if tribal fishermen would have been included in the ban.
Federal court decisions have upheld treaty fishing rights and mandate that the states of Washington and Oregon consult with the tribes when setting regulations.
Charles Hudson, spokesman for the Columbia Intertribal Fish Commission, said he doubted the state could persuade a judge to go along with a ban when federal studies show that dams kill more endangered fish.
''The amount of gillnet harvest is a minute fraction of the total man-induced mortality,'' Hudson said.
Tribal members will be allowed to catch 70,200 chinook salmon in a season that started Aug. 30 and may end Saturday. They can also catch 11,090 steelhead.
Carlson said the state should reimburse commercial fishermen for their losses.
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