Vital sockeye run looks bad again for Lummi fishers

The Bellingham Herald:

The Fraser River sockeye salmon runs, the biggest local moneymaker for commercial fishing in good years, appear to have collapsed again in 2009.

Although some hope remains that the fish may still arrive late in large enough numbers to permit a commercial fishery, the chances of that appear to be fading, said Merle Jefferson, natural resources director for Lummi Nation.

“There’s going to be no fishery unless there’s a miracle, unless they’re real, real late,” Jefferson said.

While many local non-Indian fishers now make most or all of their money in Alaska, the Lummi fishing fleet of five purse seiners and about 150 gillnetters relies heavily on sockeye for both money and food. If no sockeye fishery materializes this year, it would be the third straight year of little or no sockeye catch in local waters.

“It’s getting hard to justify being a fisherman,” Jefferson said. “Sockeye is our bread and butter.”