Lummi fishermen receive more than $3 million in job assistance

Lummi Nation fishermen will receive more than $3 million in assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor, it was announced today.

Lummi fishermen have been among the most affected by the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon.

Today’s press release from the Deparment of Labor:

The U.S. Department of Labor today announced a $3,390,568 grant to assist about 300 workers affected by fishing industry layoffs in the Lummi Nation, located near Bellingham, Wash.

“Layoffs in the fishing industry constitute a serious crisis for this community,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Just as we are committed to helping workers in other communities across the country, we will ensure these workers get the opportunity to acquire the skills needed to promptly enter good jobs that pay family-supporting wages and offer real opportunities for advancement.”

Awarded to and operated by the Lummi Nation, this grant will assist fishermen dislocated as a result of the decline in sockeye salmon. The affected workers will have access to dislocated worker services, which may include basic skills training, individual career counseling and occupational skills training to help them transition to stronger areas of the tribal economy. The Lummi tribal development plan indicates that job opportunities are available in Lummi- and state-owned fish hatcheries, as well as metal fabrication, outboard motor repair and equipment parts businesses.

Of the $3,390,568 announced today, $847,644 will be released initially. Additional funding up to the amount approved will be made available as the grantee demonstrates a continued need for assistance.

National Emergency Grants are part of the secretary of labor’s discretionary fund and are awarded based on an applicant’s ability to meet specific guidelines.

KUOW’s John Ryan reports on the announcement:

The Lummi tribe has more fishermen than any other tribe in Washington. Henry Cagey is the tribal chair and a gillnetter.

Cagey: “One of the few gillnetters that are left.”

I caught up with Cagey on his cell phone. He says this year was a good one for the Lummi — at least for those who still have their fishing boats. But he says the Lummi fishing fleet has shrunken dramatically as the Fraser River runs have dwindled over the past decade.

Cagey: “Even though it’s a bonanza year, it’s still the impact that happened to our people. We’ve had a lot of the fishermen lost their boats and lost their livelihood over the last seven years. We’re down to probably less than half our fleet we had a few years ago.”