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Tulalip Tribes honored for efforts

TULALIP, Wash. - The Tulalip Tribes were among those honored by Coastal America for environmental cleanup efforts.

The award was presented on Sept. 15 by Timothy R. E. Keeney, deputy assistant secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, at the Estuarine Research Federation's 17th Biennial Conference in Seattle.

The Tulalip Tribes are a partner in the Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Program, which is removing fishing gear, commercial fishing nets and shellfish traps that have been lost or abandoned in Puget Sound. Derelict fishing gear is a hazard to marine life and boaters.

In August, a 100-foot net retrieved from San Juan County contained dead otters, birds, fish and a porpoise.

"There are literally hundreds of tons of derelict fishing gear in Puget Sound," project leader Tom Cowan said. "It's wonderful to finally begin a comprehensive project to remove this gear that continues to needlessly kill fish, shellfish, marine birds and mammals. We appreciate the extra spotlight that comes with receiving this important award."

The Northwest Straits Commission sponsors the project in partnership with other organizations and agencies. In 2002, the project's first year, derelict fishing gear was surveyed, located, photographed, mapped and removed from the marine environment of Northern Puget Sound. Operational guidelines and safety protocols were developed; and licensed and certified divers became experienced at derelict fishing gear removals.

Community meetings were held, and a reporting hotline, Web site and database were established.

Besides the Northwest Straits Commission and the Tulalip Tribes, team members include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service, Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Washington state departments of Fish and Wildlife, Natural Resources, and Ecology, Puget Sound Action Team, Washington Sea Grant Program, Natural Resources Consultants and several Marine Resources Committees.

The Coastal America Partnership was established in 1992 to protect, preserve and restore coastal watersheds.

The Northwest Straits Initiative was authorized by Congress in 1998 to support a citizen-driven approach to protecting and restoring the marine resources of northern Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

For more information about the Derelict Fishing Gear Removal program, visit www.nwstraits.org.

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