$2 million for areas affected by ‘disaster’ in sockeye fishery

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SEATTLE – The National Marine Fisheries Service is making $2 million available to Northwest Indian country communities and Washington state in response to the commercial fishery failure in Fraser River sockeye salmon.

“The assistance we are announcing today will help tribal and non-tribal fishermen who have been hurt by drastic declines in sockeye salmon runs and harvests that are so important to these communities,” said Jim Balsiger, acting assistant administrator of the fisheries service. “We encourage the tribes and the state to use this aid to expand their work on salmon habitat restoration, stock enhancement and retraining of fishermen.”

Tribal governments and Washington state will now submit plans to the fisheries service outlining how the funds will be used. Past sockeye landings will be taken into account in determining the amount each entity receives.

This year’s sockeye run came in 30 percent lower than projected, primarily because conditions in Georgia Strait when the smolts went out to sea last year were not conducive to good survival rates, according to a Pacific Salmon Commission member. Challenges included warmer water left over from the 2006 El Nino, resulting in less oxygen and nutrients for smolts.

This is the second time that the U.S. Department of Commerce has found a fishery resource disaster in the Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery. A similar determination was made in 2002. This commercial fishery failure is separate from the Klamath and West Coast salmon disaster determinations made in 2006 and 2008 for ocean salmon fisheries.

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