For thousands of years, the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people have managed and lived off natural resources in a sustainable way. This customary way of life is in jeopardy for the Sitka Alaska Native community. Surrounding Native communities also depend on the Sitka herring, as it is one of few remaining herring spawning grounds. Proposed regulations by the Alaska Board of Fisheries (BOF) are being debated in Sitka this week, including commercial and subsistence regulations around the Sitka Sound Herring Fisheries.
For more than 20 years, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska (tribe) has fought to protect the herring, a fish sacred to the community. The tribe established a Herring Committee with a primary purpose to ensure its tribal citizens are able to participate in the collective management of the herring fisheries.
The BOF will officially discuss the herring fisheries on Monday, January 22. The local Native community has come together to share its concerns with the BOF on herring and other agenda items. While the BOF is in Sitka, a Tlingit Koo.eex ceremony was held to honor the herring with hundreds attending.
The local issue has gained national support. The Indian Law Resource Center voiced its support for the Sitka Tribe of Alaska with several Facebook statements including this one: “Poorly regulated commercial fishing near Sitka, Alaska is threatening the human rights of indigenous communities in the area that rely on the herring eggs for their subsistence. The Center is working to call attention to the dangerous decline in the herring stock and the serious threat to the culture of the Sitka Tribe. The failure to properly regulate the fishery is a serious violation of many of the human rights set forth in the UN and the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Sealaska adds its voice of support to the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and the Native Community for an enhanced management effort to maintain a sustainable stock of herring. Last year was disastrous for the subsistence harvest. "Sealaska opposes Proposal 94 that recommends to reduce the amount of herring spawn for subsistence," said Sealaska Chair Joe Nelson. "Sealaska stands firmly behind STA's position and the testimony of other tribal members that have witnessed a dwindling spawn and diminishing subsistence harvest over the last two decades." Sealaska does not view the Southeast Herring Conservation Alliance documentation of herring eggs on branch harvest, as a scientific or accurate measure of subsistence harvest and they should not be the determining factor in allocation of subsistence harvest.
The Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures have been and forever will be connected to the waters that surround Southeast Alaska. It is part of Sealaska’s purpose to protect the health of those waters – and in turn the health of the fisheries resources within – for future generations.
View full agenda here.
For a deeper look at the BOF meetings in Sitka, check out these local news stories:
- KCAW | Alaska Board of Fisheries gets earful on herring, salmon proposals
- KCAW | Among 100-plus proposals, Sitka's sac roe herring fishery a top issue
- KCAW | Testimony opens at Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting in Sitka
- Juneau Empire | Herring, salmon draw public heat at Fish Board
- KCAW (2017) | On the Water: One harvester's hope for the herring eggs