By Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) - Commercial and tribal fishermen in Washington state could be getting federal help after the closure of the Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery last year cost them millions of dollars.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker issued a disaster declaration for the fishery Tuesday. That allows Congress to send money to the affected communities.

The Fraser River flows from the Canadian Rockies into the Strait of Georgia at Vancouver, British Columbia. Low returns of sockeye to the river prompted the closure.

Several Washington tribes, including the Lummis, Nooksacks and Tulalips, fish for sockeye. They and the state’s nontribal, commercial fishermen typically bring in a collective $4.1 million per year from sockeye. The Commerce Department says last year, the total was just $115,000.

Pritzker says that if Congress appropriates money, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will work closely with Congress, the tribes and the state to distribute it.

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