Where are the fish ?

Regarding the  recent Yukon River Disaster Declaration by the Secretary of the Department of Commerce, a commenter here said:

“Before any money is allocated to this declaration of disaster, lets look back at the Federal Funds poured into this black hole in the 90’s. Millions of dollars and limited and/or no posted results to this day…”

I have a variation on that proposition to pose.

While skipping right on by, for now,  what the law named Transition to Sustainable Fisheries might be doing addressing  disaster relief mechanisms and methods I’d like to ask  “What are we doing/have done to understand the causes of  the commercial fisheries collapse, multiple times in recent memory, in the light of the law’s exhortation to contain the scope of the failure and the intention to repair it to the point that the fishery really is sustainable for all fisheries dependent on the resource?”

Fisheries disaster  relief under 312(a)

(2) Upon the determination under paragraph (1) that there is a commercial fishery failure, the Secretary is authorized to make sums available to be used by the affected State, fishing community, or by the Secretary in cooperation with the affected State or fishing community for assessing the economic and social effects of the commercial fishery failure, or any activity that the Secretary determines is appropriate to restore the fishery or prevent a similar failure in the future and to assist a fishing community affected by such failure. Before making funds available for an activity authorized under this section, the Secretary shall make a determination that such activity will not expand the size or scope of the commercial fishery failure in that fishery or into other fisheries or other geographic regions. 
I can’t begin to fully answer my own question but do think it imperative to note that providing money and direction for  scientific studies related to the fishery is   part of the relief available under this section .

A very important part.

Incorporating the resulting information and conclusions into fisheries management plans  seems like a no-brainer to me.  However,  I’m becoming more than  mildly concerned that our compartmentalized way of dealing with fisheries issues allows us to ignore information we already have by  fragmenting our view of the overall situation .

Board of Fish meetings are finishing up  right now which have some  potential to draw together what we know and plan sensibly for the future or allow us to retreat into little sector plans which pay no-never-mind to the idea that what we do in one sector may affect what happens in another. As regards the Yukon we  must also live with and plan within the Pacific Salmon Treaty and the Magnusson-Stevens Act as it pertains to the BSAI fisheries as well. Amongst other considerations, there are real and abiding questions which have not been adequately addressed regarding the effect  other commercial fisheries in the Bering Sea may have on the salmon fisheries onriver.

I’m not sure how the federal Secretary of the Department of Commerce makes a decision on what activities may or may not contribute to expand the scope of a commercial fishery failure in a given region  ( or expand a current failure into other regions ) but I do think the State of Alaska and its peoples need to take up the  task , all across the board, of pulling together what we do know, what we should know, what we think will help us understand what is going on well enough to make sensible plans for the future.

 While I’ve decided that trying to get hold of what is happening to the Yukon commercial salmon fishery feels something like searching for the end of the rainbow in our current way of conducting business,  I have found folks who are working to consolidate and share information. These organizations  have picked up the work of truly trying to make sense of what might be going on . I think we need to recognize these activities, support , and expand them.

Here are two of these groups.

The Yukon  River Drainage Fisheries Association is one example of  people working  collaboratively to solve problems and identify solutions.

“Guided by a board of directors from Yukon River and tributary fishing communities, and working with a wide range of partners, YRDFA works in five program areas: Policy Advocacy, Conservation & Restoration, Cultural Preservation, Economic Opportunity, and Information Sharing.”

 Their information sharing projects include  YRDFA facilitated inseason teleconferences with stakeholders and fisheries managers, state and federal, to discuss fish returns and management options in real time. These teleconferences are funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service-Office of Subsistence Management and the Yukon River Panel .

Discussions after presentations by fisheries managers is wide ranging. If you read through the 2009 summaries you will note that questions about relying on the Pilot Station Sonar surfaced very early in the season. Whether ADF&G , by skipping the Marshall test fishery in light of a closed commercial Chinook fishery , may have added to the mix of uncertainty about the run comes up in questioning, as do a variety of queries about the who and what of being a federally qualified user in relation to subsistence fishing.

These teleconferences are obviously valuable as an inseason tool for everyone on the river . They also  have value as an archive of  real-time experience and tracking  judgement calls made through the years as seasons unfold.

This activity alone puts  the YRDFA  in the  special class of   people-doing-something-useful and this is but one of their many ongoing projects.

They are funded by private foundations , YDFDA (a CDQ ),   State and Federal Fish and Wildlife Departments, the Yukon River Panel,  and NOAA.

The AYK Sustainable Salmon Initiative is another example in that it seeks to use it’s  “ innovative partnership to cooperatively address salmon research and restoration needs ”   It IS an unusual partnership . Created by a Memorandum of Understanding

“AYK MOU – February 21, 2002, revised per 2/2003 written consent

A-Y-K Sustainable Salmon Initiative Memorandum of Understanding I. Introduction

Salmon returns to western Alaska have been in decline for more than a decade, and the pace of decline has accelerated in recent years. Poor returns of Chinook and chum salmon to the Yukon River, Kuskokwim River, and rivers draining into Norton Sound, (collectively known as the AYK Region) have led to severe restrictions on commercial and subsistence fisheries and to repeated disaster declarations by the state and federal governments. The commercial Chinook harvest on the Yukon River in 2000 was less than 10% of the historical long-term average. The 2000 season followed similar low returns and disaster declarations in 1998 and 1993, and particular salmon run failures in various western Alaska locations throughout the 1990s. In the Norton Sound region, some commercial fisheries have been closed for a decade, and many subsistence fisheries been restricted or closed.
This Memorandum of Understanding has grown from a unique collaboration among regional Alaska Native organizations and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The concept of forming a body to provide direction to response efforts for the salmon failures in western Alaska developed through discussions between the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the “A-Y-K Coalition”. The A-Y-K coalition is comprised of three Alaska Native organizations providing services to over 100 federally recognized Alaska Native Tribes in the AYK region: the Association of Village Council Presidents, the Tanana Chiefs Conference, and Kawerak, Inc. Also included in the coalition is the Bering Sea Fisherman’s Association, a non-profit organization that has been active in AYK fisheries issues, including research, for decades. Common concerns over recent drastic declines in salmon returns coalesced into an action plan at a meeting of the parties on June 8, 2001 in Anchorage, Alaska. The culmination of the action plan is this A-Y-K Sustainable Salmon Initiative Memorandum of Understanding (hereinafter referred to as AYK-SS- MOU).”


This cooperative research effort is designed to study and plan for salmon fishery restoration for the over 40% of the state  which lies within the multicolored areas on this map.

It is not intended to replace other research programs nor to duplicate  projects already completed or in process .

 It is intended to be an ongoing  flexible approach, through its  “AYK Salmon Research & Restoration Plan“. The plan is about  identifying,  prioritizing, funding , and following through on  research projects which advance   AYK SSI’s  goal   to  understand and address  causes of the decline of salmon in this huge part of our state.

Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Program funds of  5 million were allocated to AYK SSI in 2002 . 

Signers/signatories of the MOU are known to all of us.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Association of Village Council 


Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association

Kawerak Inc.

NOAA Fisheries

Tanana Chiefs Conference

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

We all hear bits and pieces of the research which has come from this organized approach to studying  salmon- in the news, from the mouths of fisheries managers, here and there…

Most of it is available  here on the tubes- including  the reports we’ve heard sqibs of in the news .

Having a prioritized,  organized, flexible ( things can change if you learn something you didn’t expect 🙂 )  plan of research which is linked to various levels of oversight is something I want to see expand and grow here in the form of the AYK SSI.

I have no idea , as I said, how to fully answer my own question at the beginning of this post and have  enough of the same concerns as the commenter I quoted to be very wary of what comes now…

 in the form of relief …

 for the Yukon fisheries disaster.

I AM hoping  the 2 organizations I’ve mentioned here are part of the equation  settled on to help us develop the means to meet the challenges this troubled fishery faces.

 The disaster declaration is limited by law to commercial fishery failures but concerns about subsistence fishery failure exist as well. We have a lot of work to do.

Published in: on February 6, 2010 at 1:49 pm  Comments (54)  

54 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. As someone who was able to attend a number of BOF meetings, including the recent ones concerning this area I agree we need to push research to the front of the pile.
    It is NOT a black hole and this is information that IF organized, well run and shared will do nothing but enhance the resource.
    Unfortunately I do not feel the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, at this time, should be involved in any key research components.
    There are too many stories of biologists being pressured to report information with a slant, them being stop from collecting good samples for research and as I observed leaving out KEY information from reports.
    My understanding is that the genetics research for salmon was pulled from under the influence of the current Department Commissioner because of undue influence on biologists.
    As citizens we also need to start to hold the process of MANAGEMENT of this resource to the sustainable mandate it already has. Many decisions are allowed that go against this and all parties are aware.
    To often we do not look at the impact of how decisions made in one area impact another area due to politics, nothing more.
    State biologists are prevented from voicing concern when this happens or they see questionable management in other areas. This lack of peer review is not healthy for the state resource.
    The MSC Sustainable AK salmon certification in good through 2012 but is under discussion now. IF we continue to force the entire burden of conservation on the Yukon area residents and fishermen, versus sharing it as could have been done by some simple measures from the BOF this past week, we could suffer a real backlash on the sustainable label.
    I for one feel the above parties need our WIDE SUPPORT from the ENTIRE STATE to add a MAJOR research component to the disaster monies that will come to help the residents, fishermen and area.
    Thank you for taking that comment and running with it further, there is hope, IF well mananged.

    • I agree with you that ADF&G should “not be involved in any key research components.” From my experience, they sit on this special board and funnel money to fund their projects. They need to stick with Management funded by the State itself!

      I know a retired State biologist that was great at kow-towing to pressure from the people and he is being used now to kow-tow to big Corporate money. Slipping and Sliding for the Slime. He knows it, we know it, and it’s grating on his nerves. Wish he’d just slide away into retirement. It’s long over-due. Our salmon isn’t coming back with his million dollar budget. It’s a farce, a cover-up, a let’s fool the people project. We’d rather have Salmon than a fool’s line anytime.

      (Man_from _Unk – this comment went into the spam filter for some reason. I yarded it out here into the open. Be sure that if I ever disagree with you sharply, I will be open about it and not just hide your comments. Pi)

    • Thank AkPie for bringing my comment back from the black hole. It’s those “Information Holders” that Vic referred to last winter. I’ve been blogging about the disappearing Salmon and the farce of the CDQs since the spring of 2007 and the “Information Holders” have been trying to shut me up big time. It’s been a fun challenge trying to stay on the top telling the truth to the people who are being used to benefit a handful of greedy men. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. As the young people say these days, “You Rock” or “Sweet” or in my day, “Peace Man”!

  2. From 1965 until recently one of my family’s Fairbanks neighbors was a professor of UAF’s IMS (Institute of Marine Science). He’s now retired. I don’t know what research IMS is currently conducting regarding salmon populations, (although I recall hearing concerns raised by one research professor about ocean acidity). They use federal and State resources and they get all kinds of grants.

    These folks work for our state university. They’re a big operation and they have very smart people. They have unique resources. I’d assume they are examining north Pacific fisheries and species, salt and fresh water, from various angles.

  3. 2012 is the time to bring about change to the Magnusson-Stevens Act, especially the Coast Guard rider of 2006, which gave the CDQs unlimited control of the millions and millions of dollars coming from the primary destroyer of the salmon, the Bering Sea Pollock Fishery.

    Beating around the Bush and Backdoor decision making came along with the push to get involved through the “unique collaboration among regional Alaska Native organizations and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.” This “unique collaboration” has left out a major part of the game players, the non-Natives who have a right to the resources as well.

    The Salmon Restoration Plan, the one developed for the Nome Area has been sitting on shelves collecting dust and soon to be expired. It’s a game to be in control with no accountability or responsibility what-so-ever. This farce will continue until the people step in and call HOGWASH on the secrecy and control tactics both groups continue to play while the SALMON decline and decline and decline. It’s all about money and who gets the BIGGEST PIECE OF THE PIE.

    The MOA referred to in Pi’s article above was written in 2001, it’s now 2010 and the game continues. The groups have Stalemated each other. They don’t care about the people losing a livelihood and a cultural and traditional way of life. It’s all about the money.

    • I am not jumping into the CDQ mess yet here- nor the NPFMC bycatch regs and any other number of other factors which affect the salmon fisheries except to note that “Amongst other considerations, there are real and abiding questions which have not been adequately addressed regarding the effect other commercial fisheries in the Bering Sea may have on the salmon fisheries onriver.”
      I am concerned here – primarily- that we do NOT have an overarching, integrated approach , though we pretend we do, to plan. Also- I do agree with Mr Medred at the AK Dispatch and anony fisherman that information we do have far too often gets slid out of view when decisions are being made.

      I think there’s a whole other dimension to all of this which I haven’t quite figured out how to talk about.
      You almost get there and anony fisherman does too…
      We say a lot of stuff about sustainable fisheries but have we defined sustainable in a sensible way? Have we OPENLY developed the criteria for judgment as to what constitutes sustainabilty?
      The general mindset in AK regarding development of resources tends towards the boom or bust mentality too much, still. Renewable resources need a different way of looking at things and we are NOT there yet.

      Re CDQs-
      I have been very interested in Deckboss’ article, the comments attached to it but most especially the letter he linked to.
      If you haven’t read the letter carefully, do. I’m working on letters to my Senators…


    • I agree that the villagers have to rise up, gather data and demand that our CDQ program be updated so it is accountable to us on the village level in 2012. Some time we will hopefully get a post on that messy subject but for now it is salmon and the need for good research.
      Part of what I believe has to happen is for ALL Alaskan residents to make an effort to understand the fish industry in our state. OK reality…Let’s be honest, most won’t so it is left to those of us “in the know” to come together and call the crap, or as Man from Unk says HOGWASH, on the politics of our fishery.
      Part of what we might need is some good research on how other states handle this and make suggestions on how to clean up our system.

  4. Thank you ‘alaskapi’ for posting this article. I do have a problem with your quote at the bottom of your replay to ‘Jim’.

    You said, “AYK SSI appeals to me especially since the work is consolidated and built on in a mostly transparent process and takes proposals for projects from such a broad group of acceptable researchers.”

    I’m highlighting “built on in a mostly transparent process” What is that? It’s either transparent or not transparent. There is no middle with the word “mostly”. Still secret backdoor stuff going on.

    I’m also highlighting “takes proposals for projects….from…..acceptable researchers.” My question is: Who decides the ACCEPTABILITY of researchers? That’s a big flaw in itself. Perhaps they draw straws to decide which of the four agencies involved gets the biggest piece of the PIE. That’s how it looks to me and I’m pretty darn observant thanks to my Native heritage.

    • Thanks for catching one of my set-the-lawnmower on high and blazing over something too fast moments Man_from_Unk!
      When I say mostly transparent I do mean that- as regards what we everyday people on the ground can access. AYK SSI is open about their scientific planning and governance -http://www.aykssi.org/Research/index.htm
      Their 2006 research plan is posted and completed research is posted.
      We USED to have something similar in terms of ADF&G abstracts being readily available- the work up til 2007 is still available.

      I take shortcuts sometimes which obscure what I mean. When I say acceptable researchers- I am referring to those who make viable proposals for studies , studies which are well designed to add to what we know, within proposal guidelines which are clearly established by the research plan.
      Now- I have lots of questions about what in the heck the state, in particular, is or isn’t doing with the information gathered and conclusions made…
      I am wondering about WHERE one of the cornerstones to developing best available science is- peer review. the open debate and discussion about conclusions…?
      And kinda wondering what NOAA , a signator, is doing with it’s left hand in the Bering Sea mess it’s been making under the MSA and it’s right hand in the AYK SSI and how it handles trying to reconcile it’s own schizophrenic behavior…
      The state is charged by our constitution to manage our resources for the benefit of ALL Alaskans and NOAA is charged by law to manage fisheries for ALL Americans, so they are the signators I’m most cranky with.

  5. Books are good. They give you an idea of how things are and especially how things use to be. That’s what we’re doing with our salmon. Doing research on how it use to be and what we think the problems are now. Books are not going to help us keep the salmon from disappearing off the face of our earth.

    Up here in the Norton Sound, ADF&G has been spending lots of money and time counting the fish coming into the rivers. They have years of data but no book yet. Kawerak got involved for awhile, counting salmon too. They had a grant for awhile to give a good old boy a job. Now most of the funding comes from the regions CDQ group, NSEDC. They are holding hands with Fish and Game on this one. That’s about all it is from the looks of it all, holding hands like Red Rover, Red Rover send your boy right over and keep the real scientists out of the game.

    This confirms what ‘anonymous fisherman’ has said, “There are too many stories of biologists being pressured to report information with a slant, them (then) being stop(ped) from collecting good samples for research and as I observed leaving out KEY information from reports.” That’s painting the Bad Guys Good and the Good Guys Bad. We know who the Bad Guys are and who the Good Guys are. It’s just that the Bad Guys have access to lots of money to continue to paint the Good Guys Bad. Misuse of public money big time. Too heck with really good research, let’s play Good Guy, Bad Guy instead.

    • I do believe there are some good people who are also researchers or at least trying to get good research done on our fishery. They need support from all of us.

      My hope is that each of us who know people and programs that are ‘good’ bring it to the attention of the public in each and every way we can.

      I also feel that when we know of times where ‘politics’ interupts the system we do our best to learn details and let that information to come out also.

      Currently I know of some fishermen who have had information shared with them about state researchers who have had information taken away from them to stop it from being processed and then released to the public.

      They are gathering detailed information and plan to push the point for it to be released and the study completed.

      This was done within the last few years by the highest level of state officials. This is unacceptable and needs to be exposed.

      I also know of plans for more exposure to be brought concerning the lack of KEY information being withheld from the BOF at some of the last meetings by other state biologists so as to mis- represent what is happening in a fishery.

      Anything that I can do to support this as a fisherman and voter I will. Each of must to this!!

  6. Yup, Mr. A. Fisherman, I know what your talking about when it comes to controlling the information given to the public. The saddest thing is that poor people are generally GOOD and the BAD and GREEDY are manipulating their ignorance. It’s like playing KING OF THE MOUNTAIN with the people’s money.

  7. Well Pi, I’m going to have to challenge you again where you say, “to those who make viable proposals for studies”. Once again, who decides what proposals are “viable”? There are nasty controllers that don’t give a hoot about “viable”. We had some “viable” proposals from Canadians and they got good American dollars for Research and salaries. WHAT! Bypass those good hard-working Americans who have the natural commitment to better the lives of their fellow countrymen through their insight and hard work. Nope, that’s not a priority out here. It’s all about control and to heck with the poor people. What they don’t know won’t hurt them anyway. That’s the mind set of the people in control. Sad but true from my point of view.

    • This time I have to challenge you back Man_ from _Unk-
      I know we are all being careful to speak in generalities to protect our privacy but:
      Are you talking about specific grants funded by AYK SSI?
      If not, who was the funding agency ?
      What was/were the studies?
      Did they add to understanding of the salmon decline in the AYK area?
      I differ with you as to having a concern about the nationality of the researcher. I am far more concerned about the scope and details of the research. Good scientists are pretty much oblivious to national boundaries. Proper peer review is essential to determining what is good science ( and who are good scientists ) and THAT is something we are lacking in our public discussions of what we may or may not have learned about where-the-fish-are.
      Peer review is a process which leaves out non-specialists (like politicians) and whereby specialists openly examine and critique each other’s work from a variety of criteria. The AYK SSI research plan makes adjustments for shifting areas of study based on that kind of review.
      The Pacific Salmon Treaty which addresses both US and Canadian concerns over transboundary rivers, like the Yukon and Taku, takes into account the possibility of researchers being swayed by national interests quite specifically .
      Have you read AYK SSI’s research program outline?
      Do you have concerns over it’s scope and direction?
      With it’s published research?

      One of the largest single things which can be done to advance the poor and struggling in the AYK area is to get reliable, fact based information in the hands of those people. The “controllers” and/or information holders keep folks’ eyes trained on other things as well as raising up an almighty stink everytime someone gets close to really questioning underlying motives and ideas. Have to break that chain…

      If local people will stand right up and learn as much as they can AND learn how to judge the validity of scientific projects as well as political decisions , they CAN take up their own futures.
      No one is going to give that to them, they have to take it themselves.
      And it won’t be easy as it will rock some boats pretty hard elsewhere.
      Challenging the Area M intercept zone fishery is only just now getting into the public conscience… after 30 years. And it’s not getting the full look it should yet…
      People have a lot to do and learn to stand up for themselves.

      As an aside, since we have alluded to CDQs here before- I would be quite happy to see them pay taxes on their for-profit ventures for reasons beyond the usual unfair competition argument offered by competitors. The funding for most studies comes from US taxes and as they have a vested interest in the fisheries , they have a distinct and direct responsibility to be part of ( including pay for…) the ongoing work and discussion to make all fisheries sustainable- whether they want to or not.

    • Thanks for the challenge AkPie. I’ll have to review my notes and get back to you. I’ve known about AYK SSI since the start. Prior to that there was the Norton Sound Salmon Research and Restoration Program (NSSRRP) and they slipped through 5 million dollars in six years! That didn’t bring the salmon back either! I’ll review my notes and get back to you on that one. Thanks for tolerating my radical approach. I gave up being nice about important issues when I was but a little kid learning about truth and responsibility on the knee of my Grandpa who loved me very, very much. To honor his memory, I carry on this tradition of always pointing out the truth no matter the cost because in the long run the truth will benefit all.

  8. Here’s one stinker for your consideration funded to the tune of $220,584 by the AYKSSI. Evidently the reveiw committee thought it was worth nearly a quarter million to pander to the NGOs involved in administering the AYKSSI with this foolishness. This is not science and the reviewers know better but they funded it anyway.

    622 – Natural indicators of salmon run abundance and timing


    This project seeks to understand the historical abundance, distribution, and health of salmon populations in subsistence fishing communities in the lower Yukon River drainage through the documentation and incorporation of local and traditional ecological knowledge (LTK). The principle investigators will focus ethnographic research on natural indicators of salmon run characteristics, and compare these with archival records of environmental data and salmon abundance to explore patterns in Chinook, summer chum, and fall chum salmon runs. Based upon relationships that emerge from the LTK and biological data, we will build a conceptual model to understand the correlations between LTK natural indicators, existing data on ecological change, and salmon population dynamics. The study proposed here will take place for three years (2006- 2009) in the five communities of Hooper Bay, Emmonak, St. Mary’s, Grayling, and Kaltag. This research will primarily address the question of how LTK can inform our understanding of the changes in the abundance, distribution, and health of salmon populations, as described in the research theme “Linking Traditional/Local Ecological Knowledge and Conventional Approaches to Fisheries Research.” Benefits of this research include the documentation and preservation of LTK regarding salmon, compilation of resource maps, development of a model to estimate relative salmon run strength, and capacity building in communities and organizations.

  9. Here’s another one along the same lines funded at a whopping $673,926 by the AYKSSI committee. Science requires empirical data collection and hypothesis testing. It must be repeatable and the data and methodology must archived and made available to other scientists for confirmation using statistical analysis. Most importantly, it must be refutable. How does one prove or disprove what a person believes someone observed in the distant past and passed down through the generations by stories and legends?

    The scientists on the AYKSSI review committee know better. Why were they willing to throw all this money at this bogosity?

    601 – Using Local Traditional Knowledge to Understand Long-Term Variability in Norton Sound Salmon Populations


    Norton Sound residents have long depended upon the resources of the land and water to support their traditional subsistence lifestyle. Because of their long-term, multi-generational understanding of the region, local residents can often recall short- and long-term changes in harvest opportunities, escapement, colonization, climate change and harvest pressure, as well as other related topics. When these types of events are placed in relation to the milestones of their own lives, local people can attach dates to these stories and, in essence, develop a timeline of change. A multi-dimensional understanding of the ecology of the region, and specifically salmon cycles over time, could be provided by a) recording this knowledge, b) tying it to biological information, and c) placing it into a geographic context. The primary goal of this project is to describe observed changes to the salmon resources and environment in a geographic context so that information can be applied to aid in current fisheries challenges, including fisheries management (i.e. escapement goal development) and freshwater and marine ecosystem research (i.e. climate change). The intent is to augment on-going and new biological research with social science, and through this approach increase the capacity of the local regional Native non-profit organization to become more meaningfully involved in both biological and social research projects.

    • glad to see you here NS_Crabber…
      Have some thoughts on your remarks but will be out of touch for a few days for a short trip. Supposed to have internet access when gone but we’ll see if that is really the case…
      At any rate , welcome. Don’t always agree with you when I see you around but ALWAYS appreciate your thoughts. Pi

    • I’m also glad to see NSCrabber onboard this discussion. I’ve learned a lot from him on blogs about the fishery issue and many, many other topics that have been plaguing the Civil Liberities of all Alaskans.

      AkPie, I’m responding to your remark, “Challenging the Area M intercept zone fishery is only now getting into the public conscience….after 30 years.” Not in the Norton Sound! Kawerak filed suit in the 90’s and they lost. Read the Archives of The Nome Nugget from those days. Personally I think it was just a diversion on the side. Big money talks, poor people walk. History is good, very good. Some of the same people involved are still around slinging their BULL. It’s just a diversion to me. Big money talks, poor people walk.

      • The archives from that period are not available to me.
        Are you talking about http://www.touchngo.com/sp/html/sp-5192.htm ?
        The points of law sustained here are a problem for everyone in this state.
        I am hoping we can talk about them- anyone here want to do a guest post on what laws we have and battles we have fought in trying to sort out the mandate for Legs to provide for management of resources for the benefit of all Alaskans? 🙂
        While Area M has been a concern for your area for a long time, as big as we are, it IS very recent that those concerns are getting heard outside of a relatively narrow part of the state.

        • The URL you reference is the decision in Elim vs State of Alaska on whether or not chum salmon interception in the Area M aka False Pass June fishery is consistent with laws protecting subsistence. The court’s rational for ruling against Elim is worth reading because it is a lot different than what most of us in western Alaska were expecting.

          The result was that Area M was not restricted and in 2009, the June fishery took more than 700,000 chum salmon. The available genetic data suggests that 60% of those fish were headed for western Alaska spawning streams from Bristol Bay to Kotzebue when they were intercepted. Unfortunately, the scientists can’t break it down to the level of detail we would like and tell us how many fish from a specific drainage.

          The issues are the same as for salmon bycatch in the pollock trawl fishery and no one can predict how another court would rule if this were brought before them. Interestingly, during 2005, the pollock trawlers also killed and wasted more than 700,000 chum salmon. What is remarkable is that between the two intercept fisheries that any chum salmon are left to spawn in western Alaska rivers.

          What is most painful is since the CDQ program came along, we now have lots of well funded western Alaskans lobbying the NPFMC to stop measures that would significantly reduce salmon bycatch. The CDQ groups are heavily invested in the trawl industry and fought successfully our efforts to reduce chinook salmon harvest in April 2009. They can be expected to do the same when chum salmon bycatch comes up for final council action in June 2011.

          The chair of the NPFMC, Eric Olson works for the Yukon Delta CDQ group.

          • I found the court’s rationale interesting- it generated a whole series of questions for me and I haven’t sorted out what I think yet. (thank you Man_from_Unk for pointing a finger this direction )
            Personally, my own attention at the time, on my Southeast end of the state, was taken up with changes to the Pacific Salmon Treaty. I was aware things were a mess north of me but not to the extent I have begun to realize in the last few years. I should have been listening to friends and family better…
            I think your take on the intercept fisheries , in federal and state waters, is the right basis for the arguments we need to have about “sustainable use principles”. Our compartmentalized method of trying to manage fisheries , on a variety of fronts, has made me wonder if we will fool around until there are no fish…
            Each little sector does have it’s own issues but we lack a mechanism to pull together the larger picture , something I think is long overdue.
            I agree that adding in the dollars various entities throw in to obfuscate and obstruct genuine attempts to get hold of such a mechanism and you have the mess we’re sitting in right now.
            I am hoping some of us outside your area can be of support in your 2011 chum bycatch battle. I have questions for later . For now , do you have a vision on what would breathe life into ‘sustainable use’?
            Where do we start with a discussion which might result in a legal mechanism to pull together a broader view ?
            Our fractured way of doing things which have tremendous effects on other things , while closing our eyes and chanting ‘la,la,la…’ to drown out legitimate criticisms outside each lil ‘room’ is hurting us…

            • I guess we have to become more vigilant and break down those doors to those “lil ‘room'(s)”. We have a right to fair and equal representation and the more we insist, the more likely we’ll succeed.

              • Sometimes those doors are open but the meeting wasn’t adequately advertised to the public. I heard that AYKSSI was in Nome recently. It’s about controlling the biggest piece of the pie.

                • There was an EXPERT” on Alaska Salmon Genetics in Nome last night and because it was poorly advertidsed, there was the “Ususl Suspects” in attendance! THE BIG MESSAGE: Keep the majority IGNORANT! The majority of our PUBLIC is NATIVE. Keep us down and dumb, message received, loud and clear.

                • Well, we’ll have to figure out how to change how info gets out and about…
                  I watch the Nome Nugget – one of the better papers in Alaska BTW…
                  Will we see a report?

                  Who came? To speak to whom?
                  Did ADF&G facilitate the presentation?
                  Were you able to go?
                  What was said? By whom?
                  What kind of information was being shared… supposedly?

                  We can change the message.
                  We have to change the message.
                  Let’s work to change the message…

            • Alaskapi, here are a couple of real-life examples to illustrate what you said. I attended a NPFMC meeting in December where council members argued vehemently that the council should not even be talking about Area M chum salmon interception because the authority for management hasd been delegated to the Alaska Board of Fisheries. A friend of mine attended an Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting in January where BOF members said they shouldn’t even be talking about trawl bycatch because that was the council’s prevue. Just writing this makes me feel like my head is about to explode.

              I think biologists are in agreement than there is no possibility of any kind of coherent salmon management without an ecosystem approach. Managing them piecemeal, as has been done, is lunacy and the results reflect it. That needs to change. What we need is good leadership at the top, Alaska needs a good governor.

              As for question about what it would take to breathe life into sustainable use. First and foremost we need a leader who can bring people together, understands the problems and who believes in what the Alaska constitution says. Too many of the wannabees are really into promoting themselves and their hidden political agendas and cause more harm than good. It is a huge mistake to conflate salmon stock restoration, fair allocations among users and tribal sovereignty but that is what is happening. The commercial fishing industry involved in intercepts must be very pleased about that and will capitalize on it.

              People who care about how many salmon return to western Alaska rivers are few in number and short on resources to fight this battle. Dividing ourselves along racial and regional lines is exactly what the other side wants us to do and they will encourage it.

              It is imperative that local people take back control of the CDQ groups from the Seattle trawlers and our own people who have sold out to them. Last April, Trevor McCabe used CDQ program wealth to bust our efforts to protect chinook salmon from pollock industry bycatch. We need to learn from that and make sure it doesn’t happen this time.

              • NS_ Crabber said- “Just writing this makes me feel like my head is about to explode.”
                Don’t stroke out! Nor let it beat you down too far.
                Have another cup of coffee and keep talking here.
                Your examples are as good as I’ve ever seen to illustrate the closing our eyes and chanting ‘la,la,la thing I’m talking about- thank you for bringing them here.
                I’m needing some time to think about some of your ideas but would like to pose a question for you and others who visit (Hi Vic! was hoping you would sneak a minute to poke your head in! ) even though I can’t quite get ahold of how to ask it…
                Going clear back to the beginning of this post-
                The legal language which surrounds disaster aid in question here-
                Both the state and the fed would appear to be bound to not only remedy this disaster but ensure it doesn’t reoccur or spread… we all know they haven’t met their obligation to do this in the recent past in a meaningful manner like digging in and working through to an open agreement to cooperate on gaining the overall picture might provide. This shell game we are all watching has worked partly because of the refusal to deal with the full ecosystem salmon inhabit… how to change that is the question …
                Do we have a door there in the law itself ? Pushing for activities which fufill the full letter of the law?
                I asked at the beginning here
                ”What are we doing/have done to understand the causes of the commercial fisheries collapse, multiple times in recent memory, in the light of the law’s exhortation to contain the scope of the failure and the intention to repair it to the point that the fishery really is sustainable for all fisheries dependent on the resource?”

                • I agree with your BLACK BOLD words 100%. Some of the managers are very narrow minded! They play BIG MAN, little man too seriouly! They don’t care about the peopleinbetween. It’s obvious to the thinkers and the observers.

              • This is an important lesson and one those in the villages, with the support of ALL Alaskans needs to learn.

                The waste and mis-direction these important groups has taken HAS to be corrected. It is going to take a lot of work and a ‘ground swell’.

                When I think of what all that money could have done, and was envisioned to do in the beginning, to help the villages and their residents it makes me furious! Also all the pillage that is appearing and how this could well be lost in a few short years without a change of direction.

                I HOPE that all of us who do care have finally ‘found’ each other so we can support this effort and move forward.

                Thank you for giving us another platform to discuss it!

          • Thanks for the data Crabber. That’s the neat thing about History. We’ve done that, it didn’t work, lets try something new.

          • A place we might have some impact is in the MSC certification on these fishery!!

            It will need good arguments BUT there are a number of salmon fishermen who are pissed at the continued intercept of all salmon and are planning to voice it to these companies.

            We can also bring the issues to some of the big NGO that deal with it.

            Is this dangerous to our entire industry, YES BUT if the powers to be do not listen, take it to the public!

          • Yup, they are using the money intended for the poor people of the Western Alaska Coastal villages to keep the Corporate hand in and on the cash bag.

    • I think we feel differently about projects like this one though I do wonder about the mongo price tag here…
      I support this approach.
      I was exposed to the idea that traditional knowledge could be a powerful tool in advancing scientific studies and understanding about 20 years ago
      A geologist sibling was working as an intern on a project to sort out the Cascadia Subduction Zone down south. Sibling told me of the informal methods employed by the project leader to gather indigenous peoples’ stories and history about quakes in that area. The information gathered was instrumental in planning studies which yielded much fruit.
      Also, around the same time scientists studying climate issues in Baja California realized they had a treasure trove in local peoples’ understanding of turtles in the study area- seemingly unconnected but viewed from a slightly different angle, provided a baseline to approach their own studies.
      Scientific activity is one of the better sides of our human behavior but it is not the be all and end all of our ways to apprehend knowledge.
      I do worry about projects which may have value but end up being used to co-opt attention , or avert attention from end goals though… used as sops to quiet concerns instead of addressing them…
      I worry about that a lot.

    • Let me attempt to clarify my objections to including these types of studies in scientific research programs like the AYKSSI. There is no doubt that people who are out in the country are keen observers of natural history and their observations can be useful in developing research hypotheses. Their knowledge of how to function in the wilderness can be invaluable in planning and conducting scientific studies. However, it is inaccurate and wrong to characterize this knowledge as science.

      Science is a disciplined way of objectively determining what is true and rejecting what is false. For something to be called science requires a rigorous systematic approach that is not consistent with what people commonly refer to as traditional ecological knowledge. That’s not to say that TEK is not true, it may be, it’s just that there is no way to know whether it is or not and it has been demonstrated again and again that it often is not.

      Here’s just one example. My father is outside all the time and has been all of his 89 years. He is a skilled observer of nature. He says global warming is a hoax because he remembers summers in his youth that were as hot or hotter than any he has observed in recent years. Other elders using their TEK say that what they have observed tells them the climate is warming. So how do you resolve these two opinions, take a vote?

      Science has ways to deal with such conflicting theories. You define your data and analyze it using statistical methods. Obviously, reading the news will tell you there is still room for differing interpretations of the data but science offers ways of resolving these disputes where TEK doesn’t. If you collect more data, analyze if using defendable methodology and the preponderance of the evidence supports a conclusion that the climate is warming, cooling or staying the same, science demands that scientists accept that conclusion and reject the others until a different dataset or different methodology provides a reason to conclude otherwise.

      Science evolved over the totality of human evolution. It is the best way mankind has come up with so far for understanding our environment. It is not the property of any particular culture or ethnic group. Everyone uses it for answering questions about the natural world.

      Every culture has traditional ways of knowing and belief system that come down from past generations of ancestors and these may be important to the members of that culture and may be useful for some purposes but unless they fit the definition of science they are not science and attempts by people to force the proverbial square peg into the round hold are just wrong.

      The scientists on the AYKSSI who pretend these types of studies deserve to be given the same deference given to scientific research are pandering. They know better but are willing to compromise what they know in exchange for support for funding their own projects from the communal pool.

      The funding available for researching what is causing our salmon stocks to decline is way less than what is needed even if it were spent well and unfortunately, there is a fair amount of waste in most big research programs. Nevertheless, it is a disservice to salmon users to allow any of it to be sidetracked to projects that cannot possibly contribute anything useful toward solving the problems.

      • NS_Crabber-I cannot speak to the motives of specific scientists but I do want to speak some as to what the collection of TK and it’s hoped for integration in use plans is SUPPOSED to be…
        When I look at the introductory remarks here
        I am reminded of my (now very) long ago introductory water quality engineering courses. A couple of the required seminars were team taught by 4 profs who were (and still) considered world class engineers in the various water quality fields. All had worked all over the globe. One in particular spoke at great length about sanitary water projects in rural areas around the globe and the growing understanding that far too many projects had been engineered without local participation and input and were failures in that they too often didn’t fit local needs or ability to manage, were in essence over-engineered . He outlined projects coming on board which , with the collaboration of locals, were better suited to the locale, had lower ongoing operating costs and provided a chance for locals to take charge of their own systems instead of needing (expensive) outside technical help at every turn. Local participation included what we now call TK components. Following some of those projects for years I see most succeeded and to some extent moved the communities they served into taking up their own future . ( That’s a whole other discussion though… )
        TK , as the accumulated memory of a group of people, certainly has pitfalls in sometimes elevating anecdotal information to real knowledge but real knowledge may also be found within the chaff. It looks different to those of us trained in western scientific procedure and honestly, at times, makes me nutso . However, western science has pitfalls as well and we must stay vigilant about that too.
        You pointed right directly to one of the major problems in using whatever information we do gather for the purpose of solving the fish problems in the AYK region… and other problems elsewhere… We need to vote (hire) better leaders – those committed to resolution for the polity.
        polity= group
        politics= the business of the group
        politicians= the people we hire to do our public work

        • Alaskapi, I need to respond to your characterization of science as “western” because such a characterization implies that science was forced upon nonwestern people by outsiders and is therefore bad. Nothing could be further from the truth. A quick review of the literature shows that scientific methodology is the way professionals everywhere determine what is true. There really is no alternative way of going about it that is better and people claiming they have another way are deluding themselves and wasting our limited resources.

          • There are those who characterize western science as you say. They are wrong.
            Humans have always borrowed forms and methods of knowledge gathering and sorting from each other. Always will, when some method offers promise…
            The west was happy to integrate algebra borrowed from the east, the east has embraced scientific methodology from the western tradition…
            My argument is not that one method is better, but that each have additive properties to knowledge that we can use.
            I think we disagree sharply here.
            However, I do have a question .
            Are you referring to the obscurantists in the bush who think all that comes from outside is bad when you state your concern that “such a characterization implies that science was forced upon nonwestern people… ” ?
            Western science is merely a term for that which has flowed from the traditions and work of those such as Descartes and Newton. It is nothing more.
            The defensive mindset in too many rural Alaskan communities, while understandable on a variety of levels, stands in the way of sorting out what is useful from the old ways and what is not , taking what can still be used and leaving behind that which has worn out…

            • The “old ways” of sharing and looking after one another are probably what Alaskan’s need the most at this time of change. We sure could use a lot more compassion, tolerance and loyalty before we step in to save the Salmon. The Native People of Alaska have to step in to help save the Salmon. Look at the news about the Kodiak rivers on ADN today.

  10. “…..throwing money at a bogosity” is right. Over a half a million dollars too!! I guarantee that that $700,000 for Local Traditional Knowledge won’t bring the salmon back to feed the poor and sustain a thousands year old culture and tradition Pure HOGWASH.
    They are probably doing this to record the history before the Salmon are no longer. Or perhaps it’s to pacify the Natives so the others can have the bigger PIECE of the PIE. Both options seem reasonable to me. Extremely sad state of affairs. Fooling the ignorant and illiterate and helping some office worker get a PHD in Social Science????? That’s another option but that could be a wild card. All this Public Money and the common folks who know have to speculate. We’re suppose to be informed before these agencies go out to spend our tax dollars on HOGWASH. I’d have declared that proposal unscientific. Their super rich Land Claims Corporation should take care of that study for their History of How Natives Use To Live When The Salmon Was Abundant.

  11. If we all agreed on everything there wouldn’t be any need for blogs would there? Maybe as we discuss these difficult problems, we can work toward common ground or at least a better understanding of where the differences of opinion are coming from.

    Either that or we can get all pissed off and call each other names like they do in the ADN comments.

    • 🙂
      Here’s to lots of discussion!
      Getting on a plane in a couple hours…
      IF have ability will check in here, I will…otherwise back in about a week.

    • And we won’t be calling each other names here…
      We can all step away , kick the wall, say bad words, compose ourselves and come back to the discussion
      I’m too old to spend much more time getting lost in useless conversation but I do get ticked off now and again still…

  12. We cannot separate “the CDQ mess” from this issue. They are part of the problem. Management is part of the problem.

    We have a good start in your blog AkPi. We have to get beyond ‘them vs us’ and convince all players to work toward the common good. That’s the hardest part of the game because so many of the players are in it for themselves. I guess we need to identify those players and replace them somehow. It’s an uphill struggle but with perserverance and committment to bring forth the truth, we will eventually succeed. Alaska is in a great state of CHANGE right now and people want the Truth. We can’t continue with the same old, same old. The game is known and it is out dated. People know thanks to modern technology.

    • Agree with you here!!
      Been slow to get into the conversation but am watching it.

      Good discussion, even disagreeing with facts and examples helps us all.

      Personally am continuing to gather as much info;facts, emails, etc. on my CDQ and the programs and will continue to fight the crap!!

      I ask questions, and keep at it on subjects I can, keep records and hope to get one or more in our legislature to pay attention.

  13. What complicates the whole issue is the Native agencies wanting a piece of the pie. Their representatives have at best maybe a HS Diploma with the possible reading ability of 4th Grade. We need to start over and give the projects to the real scientists and not necessarily those representing state and federal agencies. Those guys are usually on the clock and don’t work very hard. Plus they tend to have too much to do in their ‘regular job’ to take on big projects. So in the end, we have sub-standard final reports chock full of excuses on why they didn’t get the job done as intended. Perhaps that’s why some of those reports are still in the closet somewhere.

    This conversation, in all it’s variety, has stayed so interesting I’ve not finished 2 posts I’m working on.
    Concerned has opened up a couple other lines of thought, Man_from _Unk has reminded me of the strategies self serving leaders use with their constituents to keep a cloak over what should be readily available information- to those constituents, NS_Crabber – agh-has opened about 40 important questions…
    I need to work on a couple other things but don’t want to close this down here…
    Back in a bit…:-)

  15. Wow, 40 comments! Cool! Now if I could just understand it all…who made this all so damn complicated?

    Keep up the discussion, it’s good for all of us (even the fish dummies like me). I do eat fish, love to eat fish, and want to be able to eat wild Alaskan salmon til the day I die, so we need you all!

    • Just start from the beginning Miss Martha. It’s not that complicated. Big Corporate USA is destroying the Salmon out in the Bering Sea, the Federal Government was convinced to pour millions and millions of dollars into a big black hole forming from the Sea and now we have a Salmon Crisis. They’ve been declining since the late 70’s and early 80’s when the USA Factory Trawlers took control in the Bering Sea. That’s where the Salmon have their nursery. Caught and wasted before they return to the rivers to spawn. It’s not complicated at all, not to me anyway. I’m not a Rocket Scientist, but I sure know how to see through BS.

  16. Alaska Salmon is good food indeed. I’m doing all this activist writing for a dear little Eskimo elder who’s had to eat a $2.50 can of sardines whenever she has a craving for fish. She’d rather have salmon dryfish though.

    • My friend who grew up on wild fish and game eats canned sardines when she craves fish. She buys the sardines canned in oil and soaks the oil up with crackers because it’s just like dipping in seal oil. She is losing the World as she knows it in her little lifetime. She can’t pass her traditional knowledge on. It makes her sad. It makes me sad and mad. Can’t take care of ourselves like we were able to before. And because the Natives are Wards of the Federal Government then we have to look to ??????? like the American Indians did so long ago. History repeating itself? Sure looks like it.

  17. Hey Pi, I like your Replay feature but the older replys come out so skinny that I’m worried my words will fade to nothing again just like on ADN!

    • I’m seeing us all get so skinny a Taku wind will carry us away, Man-from-Unk… :-0
      Might have to go back and change the format again…

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