It is my pleasure to write this, not only as the Indigenous Engagement Lead for SEACC but also as a Tlingit whose outer shell is Kiks.adi. I’m proud to share that we at SEACC will now be actively working to support herring conservation across Southeast Alaska — with particular attention paid to one of the last spawning grounds in Sitka Sound that has been mismanaged by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) for commercial sac roe harvest.
The Kiks.adi have always had a close relationship with herring, and herring represents so much to me and my family.
My cousin did her Ph.D. research on Sitka herring and often ended her presentations with a story of the first time my son tried herring eggs at around 8 months old in a room full of aunties and cousins, holding their breath in anticipation as he tried them. He used baby sign language to ask for more. I remember as a little girl how special it felt to get boxes of herring eggs sent to us from Uncle Herby Didrickson in Sitka for my mom and me to distribute to family and friends in Ketchikan and Metlakatla. Smiles spread from ear to ear when someone is gifted a bag of fresh eggs from Sitka!
SEACC stands now in support of the leadership of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and the Herring Protectors, who have been advocating for herring for years, saying that management of this important species needs to change — and fast!
In January 2022, the ADF&G’s Board of Fish (BoF) will be meeting to consider proposals that could help keep more herring in Sitka Sound. Conversely, some proposals could make it harder for subsistence harvesters like my Uncle Herby to gather and share herring eggs.
That’s why we’re asking you to submit a comment to BoF in support of herring proposals 156, 157, and 158, and oppose proposals 159, 160, 161, 163, 164, 165, and 166. The deadline to submit a comment is next Wednesday, December 22. Please add your voice before it’s too late!
For those not familiar with the herring issue, the Herring Protectors have created a helpful summary of these proposals and their impacts on herring and subsistence harvesters.
To summarize, there used to be bountiful spawning herring populations throughout Southeast. But in the last 50 years, spawning grounds from Kah Shakes to Lynn Canal have collapsed under ADF&G management … and not a single one has yet recovered. Why is this important? Herring are a keystone forage fish species and critical food for salmon, as well as other economically and culturally important species like humpback whales and harbor seals.
While the proposals being considered by BoF next month are not enough to undo the collapsed herring populations across Southeast, they are an important first step in protecting Sitka Sound’s population — the last best herring spawning grounds in the region.
Indigenous Engagement Lead