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Congress Allocates Funding to Save Fish

November 16, 2001|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Congress allocated $110 million on Thursday to boost dwindling populations of salmon and ground fish in Pacific Northwest waters.

The money was part of a spending bill to fund the Commerce Department, which oversees the National Marine Fisheries Service. Senate approval Thursday followed similar action Wednesday in the House. The legislation goes to President Bush for his signature.

The bill provides the money to the West Coast Salmon Recovery Program, to help salmon populations in Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska. That's an increase of $20 million from last year, Northwest lawmakers said.

The bill also provides $47 million to implement the U.S.-Canadian Pacific salmon treaty, which in 1999 established long-term fishing agreements and funding commitments between the countries.

The measure allocates more than $14 million for ground fish recovery, community assistance programs and research in Washington, Oregon and California, where the coastal fishing industry has been struggling to build up ground fish numbers. The bottom-dwelling fish include lingcod, rockfish and bocaccio.

Twenty-five populations of Pacific salmon and steelhead are now listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened or in danger of extinction. Some environmentalists and tribes say the money in the commerce and other spending bills is welcome, but inadequate to save the fish.

Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission spokesman Charles Hudson said he wants the federal government to look at the big picture in the region, rather than just focusing on threatened and endangered fish.

"We'd like to see common-sense measures on the ground," Hudson said in a telephone interview from Portland, Ore.

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