Planet Alaska: Woven with herring

“Down on the dock I say, “Gunalchéesh,” as my friend hands me a five-gallon bucket filled with herring eggs on hemlock branches. I take the bucket home and start a small pot of water boiling. I blanch a small batch of eggs and then eat them with soy sauce. It tastes like home. I am home when I eat herring eggs. Later, I take the herring eggs around to friends and elders. Sharing is an important Tlingit value and sharing herring eggs is a ritual connecting me to my people and place. This ritual is in danger of being lost.

Sadly, we are running out of time to save the herring. The herring fishery in Southeast Alaska is one of our “canaries in the cave,” meaning the herring decline is an early indicator of problems throughout our food web. One after another, 11 herring management areas in Southeast Alaska have been over-fished to near extinction. Extinction is a serious word. Historical herring fisheries once thrived at Kah Shakes/Cat Island, West Behm Canal, Ernest Sound, Hobart Bay, Seymour Canal, Chatham Strait, Hoonah Sound, Tenakee Inlet, Auke Bay, Lynn Canal, Icy Strait and Yakutat Bay. The Sitka Sac Roe Fishery is the last population of herring in Alaska to provide a significant commercial harvest and subsistence herring egg harvest. Despite these losses, Alaska Department of Fish and Game has ignored the traditional ecological science and testimonials of the Tlingit who’ve harvested in a sustainable way here for more than 10,000 years. Mismanagement has resulted in the decline of our herring population. This frightens me. Our elders tell us that life in Southeast is not possible without the herring. Why is this so hard for the state of Alaska to understand?”

Read the full Juneau Empire article here

15873891_web1_herring-eggs-sitka-branches-115873891_web1_53470224_680297099054460_2200044199343030272_nTop: Herring eggs hang from a hemlock branch in Sitka. (Courtesy Photo | Vivian Prescott), Bottom: In this photo from the William L. Paul Sr. Archives, herring eggs dry on the beach in Sitka circa 1900 (Courtesy Photo | Sealaska Heritage Institute).

Anthropology Research Proposal: On Chinook Salmon

Replenishing Major Food Sources of Native Alaskan Tribes: Managing Yukon River Chinook Salmon Populations

Megan Lorino, UAF Wildlife Biology and Conservation Studies

 

Abstract

Populations of Chinook Salmon have been dwindling in the Yukon River for many years and have been monitored closely by scientists with the goal of bringing healthy populations back. Native Alaskan tribes have always relied heavily on these salmon populations as a major food source. The United States and Canada came to an agreement in 2016 known as the Yukon River Salmon Agreement; the goal of this agreement was to begin working on restoring healthy salmon populations which end up being harvested in both Canada and the United States. Climate Central reported that in 2014 Chinook Salmon populations in the Yukon River dropped so low that there was a hold put on subsistence fishing. Native Alaskans rely heavily on these salmon populations for subsistence in their tribes. “Subsistence salmon fishing is at the core of many residents’ livelihood; integrating fish wheels, dip netting and fish smoking into many Alaskans’ everyday life. Salmon are more than food or just fish – they are a way of life to many Alaskans (Beutler, 2016).” I examine possible solutions for preserving and rebuilding salmon populations in the Yukon River with the goal of replenishing this important food source for Native Alaskan tribes which still rely on harvesting wild resources in order to survive. Environmental factors such as sea ice temperature and salt concentrations will need to continue being monitored to determine where fisheries management can assist in spawning and abundance of this critical food source. 

 

References Cited

Alaska Department of Fish and Game, 2019. 2019 Yukon River Salmon Fisheries Outlook. http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/applications/dcfnewsrelease/1029815354.pdf

 

Alaska Department of Fish and Game, n.d. Subsistence in Alaska. Overview: Definition, Responsibilities and Management. https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=subsistence.definition

 

Beutler, H. 2016. Threat to Salmon Imperils Alaska’s Culture. Climate Central. https://www.climatecentral.org/news/when-salmon-disappear-alaskan-culture-may-follow-20522

 

Burke, J. 2012. Alaska Natives rally for restored aboriginal hunting, fishing rights. Anchorage Daily News. https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/article/alaska-natives-rally-restored-aboriginal-hunting-fishing-rights/2012/10/18/

 

Gautier, A. 2019. Running against time: Forecasting Chinook salmon runs on the Yukon River. NSIDC Highlights. National Snow & Ice Data Center. https://nsidc.org/nsidc-highlights/2019/08/running-against-time-forecasting-chinook-salmon-runs-yukon-river

 

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 2002. U.S. and Canada Sign Historic Yukon River Salmon Agreement. News Releases. https://www.fws.gov/news/ShowNews.cfm?ref=us-and-canada-sign-historic-yukon-river-salmon-agreement&_ID=2592

 

Dredge Fisheries Analysis

Dredge Fisheries Analysis by Megan Lorino.
February, 7, 2019.

Dredge fishing involves dragging a dredge across the sea floor in order to collect targeted fish species. There are many targeted species for dredge fishing practices including clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, conch, and crabs. There is a known risk of significant amounts of bycatch – the undesired catch of species other than those being targeted. There is also a great risk of harming other marine life with dredge fishing, one of the most harmed marine species being sea turtles. While the dredges are being pulled along the sea floor turtles are often crushed or captured in collection bags. Many other marine animals endure this risk including whales and dolphins, which may become entangled by the tow lines.

There are two types of dredges, scraping dredges and penetrating dredges. The scraping dredges have teeth or sharp bars that dig into the bottom of the sediment in order to pick up and collect marine animals which live on the sea floor. Penetrating dredges, which are also called hydraulic dredges, shoot jets of water into the sea floor in order to chase out the animals which live deeper in the sea floor out into collection bags. Dredges can weigh 2,600 pounds or more. Dredges have actively been called the most damaging gear to bottom ocean habitats. When dredges are dragged along the sea floor they also kill many smaller species including snails and worms. Areas abundant in seagrass can be damaged by destruction of the grass roots. This negatively impacts species of fish and other marine animals that rely on seagrass for food supply, habitat and protection from predators.

Proper management of dredge fisheries can help reduce the habitat destruction, bycatch, and harm to marine species during dredge fishing. Using lighter weight dredges where possible can lower the risk of crushing marine animals. Protecting certain habitats to allow some areas to remain untouched from dredges can also help protect many species. Regulating the allowance or minimum size requirements between teeth or bars on dredges can allow smaller species to pass through and avoid becoming injured while the dredges pass through their habitats. Remaining areas that have not been disturbed by dredging should be protected.

Policy decisions should be based on science where it is often proved how damaging certain fishing methods are. It is the responsibility of fisheries managers to maintain ethical policies to protect our natural ecosystems and maintain appropriate regulations to help lessen the risks of harming marine species while capturing those for commercial use. Scientific method now addresses what types of impacts from fishery practices are considered most harmful. There is enough scientific evidence present day to consciously make an effort to manage fisheries while reducing the number of marine species being harmed or resulting in population declines. “The time has come for fishery managers and conservation organizations to add fishing selectively, avoiding habitat damage, and protecting marine biodiversity as important components in maintaining ocean ecosystems and healthy fisheries.” (MCBI, vi)

Resources
NOAA Fisheries. Fishing Gear: Dredges. Retrieved from https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/bycatch/fishing-gear-dredges

Safina Center. Fishing Gear 101: Dredges. Retrieved from http://safinacenter.org/2015/05/fishing-gear-101-dredges-the-bottom-scrapers/

MCBI Marine Conservation. Shifting Gears. Retrieved from https://mcbi.marine-conservation.org/publications/pub_pdfs/ShiftingGears.pdf