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Friday, June 14, 2019 | Seaside Signal | SeasideSignal.com • A3
HISTORY AND HOPS
Once a way of life, now
For his lecture “Gillnetting: A Way of Life,
All but Gone,” presenter Robert Moberg
brought several visual aids, including cork
lines and vintage photos.
the turn of the century, the one-person
bowpicker — which featured a ﬂ ared
bow and square stern — was developed
on the Columbia River. By World War I,
the boats were powered by gasoline and
had become the industry standard for
salmon gillnet ﬁ shing.
By KATHERINE LACAZE
For Seaside Signal
illnet ﬁ shing is part of a rich tra-
dition and history in the Colum-
bia River region, but has gradually
declined as a profession and way of
life for more than 50 years.
As the name implies, gillnets use a wall
of netting that hangs down from a line on
the surface of the water and entangles
salmon — and other ﬁ sh — by their gills.
Robert Moberg, a former Seaside
municipal judge, shared stories from his
own childhood and those passed down
from community members during his
May 30 presentation, titled “Gillnetting:
A Way of Life — All but Gone,” which
closed out this season of the Seaside
Museum and Historical Society’s History
and Hops lecture series.
“I wasn’t a very good ﬁ sherman,”
Moberg confessed, adding it was his
father Cecil and grandfather who passion-
ately pursued the practice. From them,
and his own adolescent experiences, how-
ever, he’s collected a wealth of knowledge
about the gillnetting tradition.
“A lot of wisdom was imparted by our
elders,” he said. “They taught us a lot
about persistence and hard work.”
His presentation included not only
his own anecdotes and research but also
a viewing of the documentary “Work is
Our Joy: The Story of the Columbia River
Gillnetters,” produced in 1982 through
the Columbia River Maritime Museum
and the Oregon State University Exten-
sion Sea Grant. The documentary con-
tains numerous oral history interviews
with former Columbia River ﬁ shermen
who characterized gillnetting as a “tradi-
tional way of life.”
A booming industry
Drift gillnetting became popular along
A time of transition
Robert Moberg, a former Seaside municipal judge, talks with patrons after his History
and Hops presentation “Gillnetting: A Way of Life, All but Gone” at the Seaside Brewery.
the Columbia River during the early
1850s. The industry, at the time, was dom-
inated by immigrants from Scandinavian
and Slavic regions of Europe. Moberg’s
own grandfather came from Sweden in
the late 1800s, unable “to speak a word of
English,” he said.
In general, different ethnic groups
brought with them methods and traditions
of their home countries. They also drew
from the practices of the native Chinook
tribe who had honed salmon ﬁ shing for
hundreds of years.
In those days, salmon was salted and
packed in barrels and sold with lim-
ited success to a small market, accord-
ing to the documentary. Brothers Wil-
liam, George and John Hume opened the
region’s ﬁ rst salmon cannery in 1866.
The ﬁ rst year, they packed 4,000 cases
of salmon. Less than two decades later,
there were more than 50 canneries on the
lower Columbia River and its tributaries,
producing more than a half million cases
of salmon annually.
Until 1889, the canneries only
accepted premium spring and sum-
mer Chinook salmon. As demand grew,
though, other types of salmon, including
Coho and Sockeye, were used.
On the North Coast, most of the ﬁ sh-
ing was done below the Astoria-Megler
Bridge at the mouth of the Columbia,
according to Moberg. Cannery owners
rented boats and nets to the ﬁ shermen to
use during the season, which ran from
May to August — in time for young peo-
ple to return to school or college. During
the offseason, Moberg worked at his
father’s mill, which created cedar corks
During the 1800s, ﬁ shermen used
wooden, double-ended two-person boats
that were powered by oar and sail. Around
In addition to enduring adverse
weather conditions, gillnetters also had
to contend with ﬁ sh traps and wheels
used by commercial ﬁ shermen. After
that equipment was outlawed, gillnetters
became the only remaining non-Native
commercial ﬁ shermen on the Columbia
By the 1950s, however, dams, pol-
lutions and some negative effects of
ﬁ sh hatcheries severely reduced return-
ing salmon runs in the Columbia River.
As the ﬁ shing industry declined in the
region, many ﬁ shermen started commut-
ing to Alaska, and some left the industry
altogether, pursuing the crab or shrimp
ﬁ sheries instead. Moberg’s father trav-
eled to Bristol Bay, Alaska, in the late
1950s as part of that transition.
“I have fond memories of Alaska,”
Moberg said, adding it was the place
he met his wife about 50 years ago. He
also recalled other cannery workers and
ﬁ shers commuting to the northern state
around the same time.
By the late 1960s, gillnetters were
ﬁ ghting for the survival of the indus-
try, and “not much has changed in 50
years,” Moberg said. Today, some gill-
netters continue to ﬁ sh on the Columbia
River during the fall and early winter, and
native ﬁ shermen also use gillnets upriver
from Bonneville Dam.
The museum’s local History and Hops
discussions take place at Seaside Brew-
ery on the last Thursday of each month
from September to May. The presenta-
tions will resume Sept. 26.
In Oregon, it will be paper, not plastic as ban bill clears Senate
By MARK MILLER
Oregon Capital Bureau
SALEM — When you
get takeout food from your
favorite restaurant, you
might be handed a thin plas-
tic bag, with foam contain-
ers inside containing your
meal, plus a plastic straw or
two if you ordered a drink.
Those straws? Gone.
The bag? History.
The foam containers?
Not going anywhere.
State lawmakers deliv-
ered a split verdict on bills
cracking down on plas-
tic wares that comes from
retailers and vendors.
The state Senate on Tues-
day approved House Bill
2509, which bans plastic
checkout bags at stores and
restaurants statewide start-
ing next year.
approved Senate Bill 90,
restaurants from giving out
plastic straws to customers.
Customers can still ask for
one under the legislation,
which takes effect next year.
A third bill, House Bill
2883, that would have pre-
vented vendors from pro-
viding food to customers
in polystyrene containers
failed, 15-14. Three Demo-
cratic senators — including
state Sen. Betsy Johnson, of
Scappoose — joined all 11
Republicans in opposition.
It needed 16 votes to pass.
opposed all three bills. Some
argued that paper alterna-
tives to plastic straws and
bags are inferior.
Notably, the bag bill
requires grocers to sell check-
out bags for a nickel each.
“The goal is to get people
to … bring their own bags,”
said state Sen. Michael
Dembrow, D-Portland, who
carried all three bills on the
Senate ﬂ oor.
Sen. Brian Boquist,
R-Dallas, said banning sin-
gle-use plastic bags is a good
idea, but the fee will have
“We continue … to think
we cannot educate our peo-
ple and we must punish
them by ﬁ ning them, pun-
ish them by raising costs,
instead of actually talking
to our citizens rationally,”
Boquist said, arguing that
adding a mandatory fee on
paper bags would reduce
their usage and hurt paper
mills and recycling centers.
Since they were intro-
duced into widespread use
in the 1970s, plastic bags
have risen in popularity at
the expense of paper. One
study suggested that Ameri-
cans used more than 100 bil-
lion single-use plastic shop-
ping bags in 2014.
“Single-use plastics, in
general, are polluting our state
and our planet,” said Sen.
Mark Hass, D-Beaverton.
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