The Lummi Nation’s fishing fleet has removed 43,522 Atlantic salmon from waters outside of Bellingham. The invasive fish were spilled from pens belonging to Cooke Aquaculture Aug. 19.
Of the recovered fish, Lummi Nation fishermen have caught 90 percent. Lummi has the largest tribal fishing fleet in the United States.
“Washington state law considers this invasive species a pollutant, and our hard-working fishermen have carried the burden of the cleanup efforts,“ said Timothy Ballew II, chairman of the Lummi Nation. “They continue to do all they can. Unfortunately, there are still 114,000 invasive fish out there polluting the waters.”
The tribe issued a state of emergency August 24, which was then declared a state of disaster one week later. Throughout the recovery, staff of the tribal government have had to put other duties on hold as they race the clock to address the spill, which has polluted treaty fishing waters with invasive Atlantic salmon species.
Lummi also created an Emergency Response Team comprised of six units: Recovery Management & Waste Removal, Legal, Interagency Outreach, Science & Technical Assistance, Financial Administration, and Ground Zero. The units will organize recovery efforts, identify the causes of the incident, and analyze the current and future impacts on the tribe. They will also coordinate with the Incident Command Center established by Washington state.
“Any action the Lummi Nation takes is for the health and wellbeing of our 5,000 tribal members,” Ballew said. “We will continue to assess the impacts of this disaster, determine what’s best for our future, and how we move forward.”