Project

Pacific Herring

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Madonna L. Moss
added 2 research items
The perspective of nutritional ecology produces a more comprehensive understanding of the dietary, economic, and socio-cultural importance of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) to Northwest Coast societies and Alaska Natives than do models derived from optimal foraging theory. The food value of herring meat, eggs, and oil are found to rank highly not just in calories or protein, but especially in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Herring provides large amounts of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in addition to iron, zinc, copper, and selenium. In coastal Alaska and along the Northwest Coast, herring was/is one of a vast array of traditional foods in a diverse diet. Herring apparently played different dietary roles in different cultural settings; in some areas it was a seasonal feast food, while in others its products were processed into forms that could be consumed throughout the annual cycle. Herring provided essential nutrients that affected human health, growth, and development, and likely facilitated demographic expansion. Paired with the indigenous and scientific knowledge of how herring function within North Pacific ecosystems, we can better appreciate the role of herring as a cultural keystone species.
Long-term use of herring by Alaska Natives is not well-documented over space or through time, yet this information can illuminate pre-industrial patterns of herring abundance and distribution. Such information is important to understand the sustained relationships Alaska Native fishers and egg collectors have had with herring. Understanding the genetics of pre-industrial herring may also inform management of the fish and fisheries to insure their survival into the future. In this paper, we attempt a contextualized account of the long-term history of Alaska Native herring fisheries, bringing together archaeological, ethnographic, and ethnohistorical data. We tie these together as background for presenting the preliminary results of the NSF-funded project, The Archaeology of Herring: Reconstructing the Past to Redeem the Future (No. 1203868). We have now tested 84 herring bone samples from 17 archaeological sites in Alaska expanding beyond Speller et al. (2012), having tripled the earlier archaeological dataset. The oldest herring bones identified archaeologically in Alaska are dated to more than 10,000 cal BP. Early Holocene and Middle Holocene sites have also yielded herring bones, although most of the record dates to the last 2400 years. Preservation of genetic information is effectively complete for the last 2400 years, but achievable back to the terminal Pleistocene (68% success rate for samples between 10,500 and 2400 cal BP). This gives considerable confidence to the potential to expand the analyses and develop a richer pattern of biological variability. The resulting data show genetic continuity between archaeological and modern herring populations. The main technical challenge for the future is to extract adequate amounts of nuclear DNA from the ancient samples for identifying more informative DNA markers that can be used to more effectively reveal any population diversity and/or population size changes over time when compared to modern herring.
Thomas F. Thornton
added 2 research items
The transformation of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) fisheries from communal to commons to neoliberal regulation has had significant impacts on the health and sustainability of marine ecosystems on the Northwest Coast of North America. Due to their abundance, seasonality, and sensitivity in disturbance, herring were carefully cultivated and protected by coastal Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian communities. The early industrial fishing era undermined this communalist approach in favor of an unregulated commons for bait and reduction fisheries, attracting non-local fleets and leading to conflicts with local Natives and tragedy of the commons style overexploitation of herring stocks by the mid-twentieth century. Since the 1970s, a re-regulated neoliberal sac roe fishery for Japanese markets has provided new opportunities for limited commercial permit holders, but with further depredations on local spawning populations. This paper uses frame theory and historical and political ecology to show how this transformation was justified by three critical but dubious (re)framings of Southeast herring populations under modern scientific management: (1) a reductionist framing of single species productivity models, expressed as herring “biomass,” within space and time (baseline scale framing); (2) the selective framing and privileging of human industrial predation under maximum sustainable yield (MSY) within a dynamic ecosystem of multiple predator populations (actor relations framing); and (3) the strategic framing of spawning failure events and policy responses to those events by professional fisheries managers (event–response framing). Finally, the paper argues for a new social–ecological systems approach, based on aboriginal models of herring cultivation, to sustain a commercial, subsistence, and restoration economy for the fishery.
Background/Question/Methods To what extent can ethnolinguistic and ethnoecological knowledge be used as tools for envisionng and carrying out ecosystem management in coastal areas? This paper examines this question by looking at case studies of Pacific herring and salmon in social-ecological systems in Southeast Alaska. The paper examines several management controversies that have developed around these species in recent years pitting the Alaska Department of Fish & Game managers against Native (mainly Tlingit) inhabitants. It examines the controversies first in terms cultural models of the coastal ecosystems and the entailments that emerge from these cultural models in terms of engagement and management/stewardship practices. The paper is based on Local and Traditional Knowledge (LTK) documentation, discourse analysis, and expert interviews. Results/Conclusions The indigenous systems emerges as one of cultivated abundance versus the state paradigm of maximum sustained yield (MSY). The paper then addresses to what extent these seemingly conflicting paradigms might be reconciled in a dynamic and changing coastal environment like Southeast Alaska. It suggests that aboriginal conceptualisations and cultivation of the land-sea interface remain highly relevant to the maintenance and enhancement of fisheries today.