Disaster Determination Issued for Squaxin Island Tribe Salmon Fishery

Chum salmon. File photo via NOAA.

NOAA Fisheries announced Jan. 12 that U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo has determined that a commercial fishery failure due to a fishery resource disaster occurred in the 2020 Squaxin Island Tribe Puget Sound fall chum salmon fishery.

The determination is in response to a request filed in July 2021 by Squaxin Island Tribe Chairman, Kristopher Peters, who detailed in a letter that the fishery’s abundance of Puget Sound fall chum was so low in 2020 that it resulted in closures for conservation of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Puget Sound state commercial fisheries.

“Puget Sound tribal fisheries were adversely impacted by the extremely low abundance,” Peters stated in the letter. “With very few chum salmon to harvest, our entire community suffered and needs financial relief to get through these difficult times.”

“As a federally recognized tribe and sovereign nation,” the letter continued, “we have the right to request and receive disaster relief under the Department of Commerce and Congressional appropriation.”

Secretary Raimondo, working with NOAA Fisheries, evaluates fishery disaster requests based primarily on data submitted by the requesting official. A fishery disaster determination must meet specific requirements under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

For example, there must be economic impacts and an unexpected large decrease in fish stock biomass or other change that results in significant loss of access to the fishery resource from specific allowable causes.

The positive determination by the Commerce Department makes the Squaxin Island Tribe salmon fishery eligible for disaster assistance from NOAA. Fishery participants may also qualify for disaster assistance from the Small Business Administration.