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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
- 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.