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600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

This document is provided for archival purposes only.
Archived documents do not reflect current WDFW regulations or policy and may contain factual inaccuracies.

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August 15, 1997
Contact: Jeff Weathersby, (360) 902-2256

"Canada First" fishing harms critically low coho salmon runs

SEATTLE -- U.S. fish managers today approved additional fishing for the small number of Fraser River sockeye passing through American waters while joining Canadian fish experts and environmentalists who have deplored the destructive "Canada First" fishing policy.

The American and independent Canadian experts predict the Canadian government's fishing policy of encouraging heavy fishing in the Strait of Juan de Fuca will damage fragile wild coho salmon runs turning to Washington as well as British Columbia. The coho will be caught in Canadian nets set to catch Fraser sockeye before they reach American waters.

"Most of the Fraser sockeye --about 90 percent-- are expected to migrate through Canadian waters so American Indian and non-Indian fishers won't have any opportunity to catch them," said Dennis Austin, who chairs the U.S. section of the Pacific Salmon Commission's Fraser River Panel. The panel includes tribal, state and federal fish managers.

"Critically low runs of coho attempting to return to spawn in rivers on the Olympic Peninsula will have to pass that gauntlet of Canadian nets," Austin said. "It is a shame conservation of these precious salmon stocks is being turned into a political pawn."

"Meanwhile, the Fraser River sockeye run is huge and Canada controls 90 percent of it," he added.

"Putting a Canadian fishery in the Strait of Juan de Fuca serves no purpose other than to further divide the two countries," said Lorraine Loomis, the treaty Indian Fraser Panel member and Swinomish tribal fisheries manager.

The Canadian press has reported a coalition of independent fish experts and environmentalists in British Columbia have predicted the government's "Canada First" policy risks long-term disaster for critically low American and Canadian coho stocks.

One Canadian fish expert was quoted as condemning its government's policy as a "scotched earth policy."

At today's Fraser Panel meeting in Seattle, U.S. managers set the following openings for Fraser sockeye:

  • Non-tribal reef nets: 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, Monday
  • Non-tribal purse seines: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday in the San Juans and Point Roberts areas. Purse seiners will begin releasing all chinook caught as of Sunday
  • Non-tribal gillnets: 7:40 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Monday in the San Juans and Point Roberts areas

  • Tribal commercial: opening at 4 a.m. Tuesday through 9 a.m. Friday in the eastern portion of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juans and Point Roberts areas. Tribal fishing in eastern portions of the Strait of Juan de Fuca will continue through Aug. 24.