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P.M. BRIEFING : Exxon Pays Fishermen $10,000 Each for Oil Closure of Salmon Grounds

<i> From Times wire service</i> s

Exxon has begun handing out $10,000 checks to commercial fishermen after the Alaska Department of Fish & Game closed much of Cook Inlet to salmon fishing as a result of the nation’s worst oil spill.

An opening had been scheduled today for net fishing, but the discovery of more tar balls on beaches roughly halfway into Cook Inlet prompted the state to cancel all fishing in the southern half of the inlet.

The emulsified oil from the 11-million-gallon spill by the Exxon Valdez on March 24 has been pushed up the inlet by persistent southwest winds this week. Cook Inlet is on the other side of the Kenai Peninsula from Prince William Sound, where the accident occurred.

Exxon said by Thursday evening it had handed out $2 million in checks to fishermen affected by the closure of the inlet, and the oil company committed itself to an additional $4 million in emergency payments. The checks neither admit any liability on the part of Exxon nor preclude fishermen from suing for additional damages.

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