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New NWIFC Chair Lorraine Loomis Ties Salmon Health to Treaty Rights

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Swinomish tribal member Lorraine Loomis has been elected to fill the top spot at the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC) in the wake of the death of Billy Frank Jr., who walked on in May.

Loomis was elected as fisheries commission chairman and will serve out Frank’s term through May 2016, the NWIFC announced on September 16.

“I am honored and humbled to be elected chair of the NWIFC,” Loomis said in a statement from the commission. “No one can ever replace Billy. It will take all of us to carry on his work.”

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The 72-year-old Loomis has managed the Swinomish tribal fisheries since 1975, the media release said, and has extensive fisheries-management experience elsewhere in the region as well. She is also part of the Fraser River Panel of the Pacific Salmon Commission, which is managing sockeye and pink salmon across the U.S.-Canadian border.

Loomis is moving from her position as commission vice-chair, a spot that will now be filled by Stillaguamish tribal chair Shawn Yanity, who was elected to replace her. Quinault Indian Nation Ed Johnstone stays on as NWIFC treasurer, the commission said.

In commenting on her election, Loomis tied treaty rights to salmon and habitat health.

“Our treaty rights are at serious risk today,” Loomis said. “Salmon recovery is failing in western Washington because salmon habitat is disappearing faster than it can be restored. If there are no salmon available for harvest, our treaty rights mean nothing. We must stop this ongoing loss of habitat, but so far the trend shows no sign of improvement. We are looking to the federal government, as our trustee, to take a more active role in salmon recovery and lead a more coordinated salmon recovery effort.”

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