SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Herring and Fish Issues
By Carol Christoffel


January 21, 2009

I am writing in support of the other good people who are concerned over the failing herring runs. I do not know the "politics" involved but note the board to regulate this largely consists of commericial fishermen, whose livelyhood depends upon consistant runs of fish.

Historiclly, self-policing in most instances means no policing. All over the lower 48, the rivers are poisoined and you have to limit what you eat from them. Will this be the fate of Alaska?

Once the Great Lakes teemed with fish, now the canneries and fisheries are gone. In virtually every instance commericial overfishing by big corporations was a factor. In those times gone by, there was no concept that the fish would ever run out. In fact it was considered inconcievable and many anti-environmentalists still insist that this is so and if one species dies, well, we will simply fish another. But what if you fish out a critical lynch pin species?

The whales were almost fished out of existance by this attitude which persisted into the mid 80's. If the whales are "reboundin" and eating too much hearing it is news to me. I have read where some more whales may be added to endangered species. Could climate changes, pollution and over-harvesting reduce the fish that whales feed upon, leading them to forage in odd places, hence the odd sightings of whales where they should not be or out of season?

I am suspicouse of the whales eating too much theory as it sounds a lot like the Eagles eating too much salmon theory that was put out while salmon was over fished.

With rising sea levels(see your own columnist) predicted for many years now by scientists, our coastline communities may have to relocate and the patterns of the fish may change. Some are predicting famine, beginning in the African continent, due to climate changes, then spreading out. If climate change affects the global communities with rising prices for food, and changes in availability of food, as predicted, Alaskans may see a short-term rise in fish prices which always encourages greed. In the long-term carefull management of the fish may in fact, be the way many survive.

Most people in the Dominant Society think short-term (historically speaking) while most tribes think long-term. It is in the balance of both of these needs (the need for livelyhood and the need for sustainability)that the future will be determined.

It is time to consider the importance of Native Elders and to quit dismissing them. In many places Aboriginal leaders have been forced to fight against big corportations or the government just for the right to continue existing and harvesting in a traditional manner.

Many of the Federal and State regulatory bodies have a strong cultural bias and tend to override the rights of the Aboriginal people.

An example of this is that years ago I happened to see a treaty between a small tribe and the government of Canada, who was eager to "discover and develope" resources, oil, mineral, whatever. In exchange for a small bit of land and automony the tribe had to give up vast amounts of land, the mineral rights to anything in the clay, earth or sea for several miles out and under thier former land.

The board of Elders were allowed to be consulted in thier subsistance takes(that is they had a right to negotiate when the government tells them they must take less and less due to the government's commericial activities). They must agree that no future generation should be allowed to sue the government of Canada for any monies associated with the resources in the mud, water, air et,cet. and several miles under and below. Which really means if the government finds oil or some valuable resource and tears up the environment to do so, resulting in the decrease of subsistance food, the tribe can never get damages. And if they are forced to re-locate due to the same issues, oh, well! I noted that there was no cap on how many people could be brought in to "develope" an area and without such guidlines in writing, commercial enterprises may develope the old boomtown mentality, and when it goes bust, abandon it. Flooding a pristine area with heavy machinery and "overnight" towns often has a deleterious effect on wild life, the very wildlife that Aboriginal villages need to exist. And on the moral side, with gadzillions of profits to be made, would not the settlement be more equitible to have set aside a share (perhaps 1% of the profits towards helping Aboriginal villages should any loss of subsistance and relocation be nescessary? or what about healthcare and education for future generations, should healthcare issues arise from the commercial developer's operations? That would be a more moral way, but it has not been done.

I am not pursueded that the Department of Interior or the Department of Justice has been at all fair with Native Claims in the lower 48, with the Deptartment of Interior caught red-handed destroying land claims for payments to Natives during a trial involving the same.(Destruction of material evidence)

That being said I have no reason to think that the State of Alaska is all that much different. So Mr.Hoff has every reason to be suspicouse I would say.

But there is still time to work together and get it right.

Clean Water and food to eat(especially fish) may end up to be the "New Gold". Gaurd it well. Think long-term sustainability as opposed to short-term profits.

And one more thing: Why are so many supermarkets carrying "Alaska Salmon, caught in Alaska", but processed and frozen in China? Should not those processing jobs STAY IN ALASKA? We don't need to put Chinese to work. We need to put our own to work. Good luck for those who fight for the fish!

Carol Christoffel
Zion, IL

About: "Former Ketchikan resident, Holistic Nurse, interested in Environmental Medicine"

Received January 19, 2009 - Published January 21, 2009


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