Port Gamble S’Klallam Reservation, WA (October 25, 2005) – The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe is continuing its environmental assessment of shellfish beds after diesel fuel washed up on the Tribe’s beach Oct. 17.

The Tribe plans on testing shellfish to determine whether the mollusks are safe for human consumption. In the meantime, the Tribe has closed the beach to the harvest of shellfish by tribal members.

“We are still trying to figure out what impact this spill has had on the natural resources in this area, particularly shellfish,” said Ron Charles, Chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. “The Tribe relies heavily on the shellfish in this bay not only for income, but for subsistence. Tribal members regularly harvest shellfish from Port Gamble Bay for celebrations and to feed their families.”

About 200 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from the Agate, a tugboat that sank at a mill site across from the tribe’s beach in Port Gamble Bay. A second tugboat also sank at the site, but no fuel was aboard that vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard is still investigating what caused the two boats to sink.

The leaking fuel left a two-mile sheen, stretching north from the bay toward the Driftwood Key neighborhood and west toward the entrance to Hood Canal. After a week, oil still covers some areas of the Tribe’s beach and marshland at Point Julia, and the smell of diesel is still in the air. Leaks from the tug were plugged after a couple of days, but oil booms still surround the sunken vessels.

The Tribe has several commercial and shellfish beds along the reservation. The Tribe also operates a salmon hatchery and salmon net pens at the bay. The shellfish and salmon fisheries are an important industry for the Tribe.

“Many tribal members are saddened and angered at this unfortunate event,” Charles said. “This oil spill has jeopardized the livelihood of many tribal members and has impacted our way of life.”

The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe originally known as the Nux Sklai Yem or Strong People, are descendants of the Salish people who have been well established in the Puget Sound basin and surrounding areas since 1400 A.D. In the late 1930s, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Reservation, located on the northern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State, was established. Many of the Tribe’s members, who total about one thousand, still live there today.

For more information about the S’Klallam Tribe, please visit www.pgst.nsn.us.


For further information, contact: Ron Charles, Chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, (360) 297-2646. Darren Friedel, information officer for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, (360) 297-6546, dfriedel@nwifc.org