By Bill Thomas Sr.
February 10, 2006
To start with, I want to make it abundantly clear to all readers that I do not intend my comments to be adversarial or condemning in any way.
I read with interest the article stating that my friend Lynn Kolund of the forest service has been authorized and given the responsibility of looking for ways to allow the eulachon population in the Unuk River rebuild to what we hope will be a sustainable subsistence fishery. I whole heartedly agree with that approach.
Where I differ is the timing of the closure of that fishery. I'm not aware of any studies or biological data that has been researched other than the fact that we know in recent years, there wasn't enough fish to warrant harvesting. For the most part, the traditional harvesters that bring enough ooligan in to sell to recoup their cost of harvesting. They spend a good month getting their boat and gear ready for this fishery and they will go to the grounds when they determine is right for them to go. Weather plays a huge role in this. By the time to calculate the fuel, insurance, crew and waiting time, it gets very expensive. They harvest for as many people as they can because they know the anticipation of a once a year healthy food source that is desired by many.
Announcing a closure this early for that period of time seems premature to me. A typical emergency closure happens when on site monitoring occurs and the strength of the run is determined. Those that know the best are the traditional harvesters. They know the habits of the fish and know when to look for them and determine the strength of the run. They can tell if it is a early school that is smaller than a larger run that follows closely behind the first run. It may well be warranted to close the fishery at that time. I just happen to believe it was a hasty decision. If Mr. Kolund was offered advice on his decision to announce this early. I have a sense he was misguided. This is only a personal opinion. I mean no malice to Mr. Kolund. In fact, he has my blessings.
Bill Thomas Sr.
About: Bill Thomas Sr. is a lifelong user of subsistence and writes he "remembers when the eulachon "ooligan" were abundant and people in Ketchikan would wait to hear the news of the ooligans coming in. They were traditionally harvest by boats from Metlakatla and Saxman. It is a delicacy enjoyed by many. And I know the decline of availability that has occurred in recent years."
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