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ornton et al. / Traditional Knowledge of Pacific Herring
81
A HEARING ON HERRING
Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) have long been a
critical resource in the marine food web of the Gulf
of Alaska. While the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989
wreaked havoc on Prince William Sound herring
populations in the northern Gulf, the southern Gulf
also has been impacted, if less severely, by commer-
cial fishing, habitat degradation, and environmen-
tal changes over the past century. Just how much
Southeast Alaska’s herring have been affected is a
historical-ecological question. But debate around this
question is being carried out in a political-ecologi-
cal environment between commercial sac roe fishers
(who since the 1970s have harvested roe primarily
to supply Asian markets because Japan overfished
its own herring stocks), subsistence fishers (largely
Alaska Natives), and other stakeholders concerned
about the effect of herring declines on the marine
ecosystem.
On February 10, 2009, the Alaska Legislatures House
special committee on fisheries held a hearing on her-
ring in which experts from local fishers to biologists
to anthropologists (ornton 2009) presented tes-
timony on the status and management of herring in
Southeast Alaska. Most of the testimony concerned
perceived declines of herring and a lack of proper
precautionary management principles on the part
of state managers, but Alaska State Fish and Game
officials and commercial fishers insisted the fisheries
were being managed conservatively. is debate was
a key impetus for our “Herring Synthesis(ornton
et al. 2010) study, launched in 2008, in which we
sought to test the hypothesis, derived from Local and
Traditional Knowledge (LTK) bearers, that—while
herring might now be managed conservatively—her-
ring are being managed in a significantly depleted
state. is is the familiar shifting baseline syndrome
(Pauly 1995) in fisheries management wherein a
degraded sea comes to be seen as normal because, as
Callum Roberts puts it in e Unnatural History of the
Sea (2007:xiv-xv), “A collective amnesia surrounds
changes that happened more than a few decades ago,
as hardly anyone reads old books or reports.” At the
Alaska hearing on Pacific herring, the elder Tlingit
fishermen, like Clarence Jackson of Kake, were hav-
ing none of the collective amnesia. “e herring have
disappeared in my lifetime,Mr. Jackson told the
House committee (Golden 2009).
Data notEs
Local and Traditional Knowledge
and the Historical Ecology of Pacific Herring in Alaska
T F. T
M L. M
V L. B
J H
F F (no photo)
Journal of Ecological Anthropology
82
Vol. 14 No. 1 2010
SYNTHESIZING INFORMATION
ON HERRING
Despite their foundational and bellwether role for
North Pacific marine ecosystems, the Pacific her-
ring's historical ecology in the region is not well
understood. Salmon, halibut, cod, seals, sea lions,
whales, and sea birds all rely on herring for a critical
portion of their diet. Alaska Natives for millennia
have fished herring as part of their seasonal rounds
of subsistence—cooking and smoking the meat,
rendering oil from the flesh, and harvesting eggs after
spring spawning on natural (kelp) and introduced
(hemlock boughs) substrates. Natives are intimately
familiar with some aspects of the herring life cycle,
especially the spawning stage, which they monitor
carefully. But herring themselves are migratory and
to date studies have not been able to conclusively
track their ranges, seasonal movements, and level
of fidelity to spawning areas (Carls et al. 2008).
Herring life cycles, in turn, are affected by many
factors ranging from habitat and water quality to
levels of prey availability (e.g., krill) and predation.
It is hypothesized that a herring meta-population
exists in Southeast Alaska into which juveniles from
various areas are recruited and entrained. As such,
there are no separate genetic stocks but, rather, only
“regulatory stocks” based on their shared life histo-
ries in particular spawning environments—though
geographic populations may exhibit unique chemical
signatures in their otolith bones (Carls et al. 2008;
Meuret-Woody et al. n.d.).
In all, 86 individuals, both Native and non-Native,
from ten different Southeast communities, 66
archaeological site reports, and thousands of pages of
testimony, reports, and historical, ethnographic, and
biological studies were consulted for information on
herring ecology. We synthesized and mapped these
data using a GIS database to locate observations in
both space and time, where possible. e results
provide a robust picture of what has happened to
herring over the past 4,000 years in Southeast Alaska,
but especially in the past century.
For the past century or so herring have been heav-
ily exploited by non-Natives in Southeast Alaska
beginning with the opening of the first herring
reduction plant—a converted whaling station—at
Killisnoo, near Angoon in 1882. is intensive
commercial harvest of herring to produce oil and
fertilizer continued until the mid 1960s, when it
was undercut by the Peruvian anchovy industry.
e peak reduction harvest of 78,749 tons came
in 1929 and was shared by 18 reduction plants in
the region. Between 1920 and 1950 more than one
million tons of herring were removed from South-
east Alaskan waters. As early as the 1930s South-
east herring were identified as overfished on the
basis of stock assessments by biologists (Rounsfell
1930, 1931), but the first harvest quotas were not
put in place until the early 1940s after catches had
declined precipitously. Still, seine boats continued
to target masses of herring for another twenty-five
years until the last reduction plant, at Washington
Bay on Kuiu Island, closed in 1966.
ere was universal agreement among our con-
sultants that the reduction fisheries overexploited
herring, causing both local and regional impacts on
herring populations. In communities like Angoon
and Sitka, impacts were felt as early as the 1920s
and 1930s. e Angoon-Killisnoo area was dis-
proportionally affected due to the early reduction
plant being placed at Killisnoo, which targeted lo-
cal herring for decades during its early operations.
Indeed our oldest consultant, 100 years of age
in 2008, who worked in the Killisnoo reduction
plant in the 1920s, observed that herring were
no longer being caught near Angoon at this time;
rather the big herring seiners were travelling up to
50 miles away to fish. is localized depletion also
transformed the Native economy which had been
producing significant quantities of herring meat
and oil for millennia. Seven of nine archaeological
sites excavated in the area by de Laguna (1960) and
Moss (1989) contained herring bones, spanning a
period of approximately 1,800 years. At one site,
herring comprised 99 percent of fish remains and
ornton et al. / Traditional Knowledge of Pacific Herring
83
was, according to de Lagunas (1960:46) informants,
a “famous locality for herring” (likely fall oil pro-
duction). Native herring oil production in Angoon
virtually ceased after the 1930s.
At this same time, Sitka Sound—by far the most
productive herring fishery in the Southeast re-
gion—was also being impacted to the extent that
local organizations were calling for a prohibition on
herring seining there. Such interventions may have
helped the Sitka Sound population avoid collapse and
rebound over time. But in many areas the cumulative
impacts of herring removals have yet to be reversed.
Fishermen we interviewed who plied the waters of
central and southern Southeast Alaska in the first
half of the twentieth century recall vividly when her-
ring stretched “as far as the eye could see” and their
roiling surfacing activities mimicked a mighty rain
or wind. “Today, you dont see that anymore,” was a
frequent comment made by fishermen over the age
of 60. By the time Alaskan statehood was achieved in
1959 and a modern fisheries management regime had
been put in place in the 1960s, herring were already
depleted in many areas—though just how much is
difficult to quantify.
ADAPTING TO HERRING
Generally speaking, the ethnographic and archaeo-
logical data suggest that herring spawning and
near-shore massing areas are coincidental with the
establishment of long-term human settlements in
Southeast Alaska. Oral histories and archaeological
data synthesized for our project confirm the affinity
of Tlingit and Haida populations for settlement
sites proximal to high concentrations of herring
or eulachon (aleichthys pacificus, a similarly oily,
spring-spawning smelt fish), especially spawning
areas. e most direct way to measure the relative
importance of herring to ancient peoples comes
from documenting archaeological fish remains.
Herring remains are present as early as 8,000-9,300
years ago, but become particularly frequent after
4,000 years ago, when bones appear consistently in
more than 75 percent of reported sites that were ex-
cavated with fine mesh screens. Human population
would likely have been growing—resulting in more
sites—but dependence on herring as a food resource
likely evolved over time as human fishers were at-
tracted to herring spawning areas with abundant
substrates for egg deposition (such as macrocystis
kelp, rockweed, and eelgrass); human fishers sought
out herring along with competing predators (e.g.,
halibut, salmon, seals) (Monks 1987).
Historically recorded and on-going practices show
that indigenous people enhanced herring produc-
tion through the cultivation of marinescapes and the
regulation of users. Key techniques to enhance her-
ring supply include: habitat conservation (limiting
disturbance of spawning areas); habitat cultivation
(through placement of substrate, such as Western
hemlock, Tsuga heterophylla, boughs for spawning);
selective harvesting (e.g., of non-viable eggs lying
too deep or shallow in the intertidal zone to survive);
predator control; and transplantation of eggs to
new habitats. On the demand side, practices con-
tributing to the avoidance of overharvest included:
territoriality and limits on access; time-specific
prescriptions and prohibitions on interactions with
herring; diversifying site; prey and substrate choices;
and sanctioning of abusive harvesters (Emmons
1991; ornton et al. 2010).
Tracking the ancient time depth of cultural practices
which enhanced herring spawning habitat production
or regulated harvest, while extremely worthwhile, is
difficult to measure using archaeology (Caldwell
2011; Campbell and Butler 2010). Humans have
been co-evolving with and adapting to herring for
millennia and diverse spawning populations have
been critical to the biocultural evolution and diversity
of Southeast Alaska.
Today, spawning and rearing habitats throughout the
Southeast region are threatened. As Figure 1 shows,
historical spawning areas documented by consultants
in our study (from c. 1915-present) outnumber those
documented by the Department of Fish and Game
Journal of Ecological Anthropology
84
Vol. 14 No. 1 2010
FIGURE 1: This GIS map displays miles of herring spawn recorded through interviews and focus groups with local and traditional knowledge
(LTK or LEK) bearers versus that recorded in government (Fish & Game) records for the Southeast Alaska coast. The LTK documents more than
twice as many miles of coast used for spawning, even though our survey did not include all Southeast communities. This disparity is a function
of greater time depth of observations and closer monitoring of herring spawning areas by local shers. Local shers also gave details on spawn-
ing reliability, environmental changes and impacts, and specic herring harvest and cultivation techniques in various geographic locales.
ornton et al. / Traditional Knowledge of Pacific Herring
85
since 1970 by a ratio of 2.5 to 1. Some of this habitat
has been lost due to degradation, while other areas
have been overfished and remain depleted. Even
during the so-called conservative management era of
Alaskas Department of Fish and Game beginning in
1980, nearly half of Southeast Alaska’s herring sac roe
fisheries have had to be closed because the spawning
populations on which they depend can no longer
support them.
LESSONS FROM HISTORICAL ECOLOGY
AND LOCAL KNOWLEDGE
e Age-Structure-Assessment model currently used
by fisheries managers to estimate herring biomass is
treated with scepticism by many locals with long-
term herring experience. But at the State House
committee hearing on herring, the biometric model
was also criticized by biologists, one of whom (Evelyn
Brown) noted that Fish and Game does not “have the
tools to deal with this [marine ecosystem] complex-
ity,” and that more field research is needed, including
documenting the observations of local experts who
are viewing herring over the course of their life cycles
(Brown et al. 2002).
Al Wilson, an elder reared in Auke Bay but now liv-
ing in Sitka, has witnessed collapses of local herring
stocks already in his lifetime and admonishes:
I’d just like to stress the importance of the herring
as a food supply. e herring biomass is in danger
of collapsing. e Fish and Game by their own
reports say that the biomass has diminished in
the last two years [2006-2008], yet their harvest
increases...I was raised in a place called Auke
Bay and they had a tremendous herring harvest
there until they opened up the area to seining,
harvesting the herring for roe—sac roe... It’s never
come back. I know places like West Behm Canal.
e same thing has happened. I know the areas
around Hydaburg…near Klawock has diminished
tremendously. e herring roe that comes in there
is very small…Even when you look at past spawn
maps…there [were] substantially more miles
of spawn then. It seemed to me that from that
they could see that the herring biomass is getting
smaller. I’m really concerned. at’s my biggest
concern—that the herring biomass [at Sitka] will
collapse and I know that when that happens it will
never come back. At least not in my lifetime.
e recently released A Program for Improving
Management and Research of Fisheries in the South-
east Region—Herring” (Hebert 2010) proposes a
relatively comprehensive set of proposed biological
studies, although it does not include a social scientific
or Local and Traditional Knowledge component.
Relatedly, the Canadian government is expanding
partnerships with The Haida Nation and other
First Nations in order to improve marine spatial
planning and ecosystem management (Jones et al.
2010). However, the Alaska government recently
(May 2009) chose to unilaterally terminate its 2002
Memorandum of Agreement with the Sitka Tribe
of Alaska seemingly in order to reassert its exclusive
managerial authority over the herring fisheries.
Although herring transplantation has been tested
in limited scientific studies—apparently with little
success (Hay and Marliave 1988)—these tests have
not been based on local knowledge and techniques
that our consultants judged successful. Perhaps res-
toration plans could be carried out in conjunction
with local Alaska Native tribes, whose members are
repositories of local knowledge about herring habitat
and enhancement techniques. is should not be a
substitute for conservative management of remaining
herring populations, but could enhance depressed or
defunct runs of herring. Such a program, however,
would have to be launched at an appropriate scale
(other techniques for herring enhancements are be-
ing piloted in Japan) and with corresponding com-
mitments to long-term monitoring, so effectiveness
could be evaluated over time and under different
ecological conditions.
In addition, more monitoring of herring spawning
areas should be carried out to reveal how climate
and other environmental changes, such as increased
predation by humpback whales (which, ironically,
were hunted for their oil and depleted before the
major shift to herring in the 20th century), are af-
fecting local herring populations. Some monitoring
Journal of Ecological Anthropology
86
Vol. 14 No. 1 2010
is already being conducted formally and informally
by tribes and other associations, such as Sitka Tribe
of Alaska, and individual fishers. This could be
augmented and coordinated with other long-term
monitoring efforts beyond the aerial and deposition
surveys carried out by the Department of Fish and
Game. Sites of increasing herring productivity (e.g.,
around Yakutat and perhaps Hoonah) and decreasing
productivity (e.g., Kah Shakes Cove, Auke Bay, and
areas of Sitka Sound) could be compared in terms of
their ecosystem assets and constraints. Correlatively,
otolith and ancient DNA studies could be carried out
to further explore genetic and ecological relationships
between different geographic spawning and massing
populations of herring. In addition, impacts, like
noise pollution and contamination from develop-
ment could be monitored vis-à-vis key indicators of
local herring population health and LTK observations
over time, as documented in our study.
Finally, with respect to environmental change, it has
been hypothesized (Planque et al. 2010) that the
demographic effects of targeted fishing (e.g., removal
of mature spawners by sac roe fishers) may have “sub-
stantial consequences on the capacity of populations
to buffer climate variability through various pathways
(direct demographic effects, effects on migration,
parental effects).” Similarly, “selection of population
sub-units within meta-populations may also lead to
a reduction in the capacity of populations to with-
stand climate variability and change.” How current
herring fishing patterns might play out in relation
to realized and anticipated climate change patterns
would be greatly enhanced if the historical fishing
and observational data could be more closely cor-
related with historical patterns of climate variability
and herring spatiotemporal variability in Southeast
Alaska and elsewhere in the North Pacific.
For more information on the “Herring Synthesisproject,
see our project website: http://herringsynthesis.research.
pdx.edu/ and the full report (ornton et al. 2010).
Thomas F. Thornton, Environmental Change
Institute, University of Oxford, Thomas.thornton@
ouce.ox.ac.uk
Madonna L. Moss, Department of Anthropology,
University of Oregon
Virginia L. Butler, Department of Anthropology,
Portland State University
Jamie Hebert, Department of Anthropology, Portland
State University
Fritz Funk, Juneau, AK
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... Harvest areas also change from year to year, which is further complicated by climate change. Spawning of herring takes place where kelp grows (Haegele & Schweigert, 1985;Keeling et al., 2017;Thornton et al., 2010). As kelp is growing further north due to changing temperatures and other factors, spawning is also moving northward. ...
... Together they have contributed to the drastically reduced quantities of harvest in the Pacific Ocean. For instance, herring populations have declined throughout the northeast Pacific (Thornton et al., 2010;Xu et al., 2019). However, in the areas of the outbreak, the herring stock has remained strong, which unintentionally complicated the contact tracing. ...
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... Herring continues to play important subsistence and cultural roles for the Heiltsuk (Gauvreau et al., 2017), Gitxaaƚa (Menzies 2016, ch. 6), Haida (Jones et al., 2017), and Tlingit (Thornton et al., 2010;Moss et al., 2011). ...
... However, in recent years, the depressed status of many Pacific herring stocks from Alaska to California has raised increasing concern among scientists Schweigert et al., 2010;Pearson et al., 2012;Thompson et al., 2017), management agencies (NMFS 2014;DFO 2015;Kronlund et al., 2018), and aboriginal peoples (Thornton et al., 2010;Jones et al., 2017;Gauvreau et al., 2017). It has also stimulated the latter to advocate for increased precaution and transparency in herring fisheries management, despite repeated assertions in analyses conducted by management agencies (Haist et al. 1986(Haist et al. , 1993Hall et al., 1988;Zheng et al., 1993;Funk and Rowell 1995;Cleary et al., 2010) that the status quo is precautionary enough, at least from a single-species perspective. ...
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Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) is a schooling planktivorous fish consumed by numerous fish, seabirds, and marine mammals. This paper aimed to determine whether Pacific herring serves as a key forage fish (i.e. strongly supports predator populations) in the southeastern Gulf of Alaska. All analyses were conducted using mass- and energy-balanced ecosystem models constructed in Ecopath with Ecosim. Supportive Role to Fishery (SURF) index values were computed using predator diets and food web structure encoded in static ecosystem models. Ecosystem impacts of herring stock depletion and collapse were evaluated using quantitative criteria (thresholds) applied to dynamic ecosystem simulations. SURF index values from mass-balanced models lay below the threshold required to designate herring as a key forage fish. However, values from an energy-balanced model supported the key status of herring. Dynamic ecosystem simulations in mass- and energy-balanced models revealed strong negative effects of herring depletion on several predators. In most energy-balanced models, simulation results designated herring as a key forage fish despite indications of functional redundancy in the forage fish guild. Impacts of herring depletion on predators were stronger and more numerous in energy-balanced models, suggesting that the high energy content of herring enhances its importance to predators. Simulation results also demonstrated positive impacts of herring depletion on two zooplankton groups due to release from predation pressure. The status of Pacific herring as a key forage fish apparently depends on its energy content relative to other forage fish. Nevertheless, the results of this study support precautionary, ecosystem-based management of Pacific herring fisheries.
... Our coastal IFD model does not highlight other food sources whose distributions may have been drivers for settlement choice. Modern herring and eulachon distributions, important early spring food sources in the late Holocene (De Laguna, 1972), are unfortunately much reduced and not representative of past populations (Patton et al., 2019;Thornton et al., 2010). Other fish such as halibut (Orchard & Wigen, 2008) were consumed at least by 8,000 cal BP, alongside Pacific cod, greenling, rockfish, and salmonids. ...
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Human behavioral ecology has proven a valuable theoretical framework for evaluating the archaeological record of human population expansion the world over. To evaluate hypotheses for the late Pleistocene human colonization of the Americas, we need to address a typical assumption built into those models: static landscape knowledge. By taking landscape knowledge as the predicting variable, rather than a constant, we can explore the behavioral mechanisms involved in the interaction of humans with new and unfamiliar environments. Acknowledging the process of adaptation produces contrasting and readily testable hypotheses for human population expansion. As a case study, we use an ideal free distribution model to test competing hypotheses for the colonization of Southeast Alaska. Our results indicate that Southeast Alaska was likely colonized by humans prior to their appearance in the extant archaeological record in the early Holocene. The locations of our oldest archaeological sites in the early Holocene are best explained as the result of a well-established population matching their settlement locations to rising sea level.
... Forage fish, such as herring, are critical components of the North Pacific marine ecosystem, supporting valuable higher-trophic-level, commercially important fishes as well as other top consumers (Ainley et al. 1996;Duffy et al. 2010;Moran et al. 2018). Herring also support subsistence and commercial fisheries in the region and serve as a cultural keystone species for Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast (Thornton et al. 2010;Moss 2016). Ensuring that forage fish are available for fisheries and the food web may become an increasingly important goal in ecosystem-based fisheries management as consumption rates of ectotherms increase in a warming ocean. ...
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Prey communities in the North Pacific Ocean have been disrupted by marine heatwaves, and reductions in forage fishes have had notable impacts on upper‐trophic‐level consumers. Little is known about the potential effects of a changing prey base for some commercially valuable fishes, such as Sablefish Anoplopoma fimbria. The objectives of this study were to evaluate temporal and age‐based shifts in diets of juvenile Sablefish, with a focus on understanding their reliance on high‐quality forage fishes. We collected Sablefish from a bay in Southeast Alaska over 2 years (2017–2019) during their first autumn (September–October; age 0), in late winter (March; age 1), and during their second summer (July; age 1). Pacific Herring Clupea pallasii constituted the majority of the Sablefish diet by weight (82.1%) and by frequency of occurrence (40.7%), with variation among months, years, and age‐classes. Stable isotopes corroborated our interpretation of diet composition from stomach contents and indicated that age‐0 Sablefish sampled in October 2017 relied on more depleted carbon sources than other groups, potentially explained by consumption of adult salmon carcasses. Significant relationships between stable isotope ratios and Sablefish length indicated that size‐based diet composition differences were most prevalent during March and July. Sablefish exploited prey taxa of variable quality (0.02–5.3 kJ/g), but mean energy density of consumed prey differed little among years or months (3.62–4.48 kJ/g). Overall, 21% of stomachs sampled were empty, with the percentage of empty stomachs peaking in late winter (46%). Stomach content weights expressed as a percentage of body weight were highest in autumn 2018, when Pacific Herring comprised over 80% of the diets by weight. Consumption of high‐energy prey, such as Pacific Herring, may contribute to rapid growth of Sablefish during the critical prewinter period. If strong Sablefish year‐classes become more frequent with a warming ocean, they will require substantial prey resources to support their growth to adulthood.
... Small bodied species can also complicate matters. For example, despite their small 7 individual body size (which simple diet breadth models would rank as low), herring and smelt 8 were major staples in the northeast Pacific Rim from very early in the archaeological record 9 (e.g., McKechnie et al. 2014;Thornton et al. 2010;. Indeed, such 10 resources can have enormous return rates when taken en masse (Ugan 2005). ...
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Edited by Heather B. Thakar and Carola Flores-Fernandez; U. Florida Press Society and Ecology in Island and Coastal Archaeology Series (Fall 2021).
... In some human communities, clupeiforms comprise the major or the sole protein source (Alder et al., 2008;Mohanty et al., 2019). Historically, clupeiform presence has been associated with persistent human settlement, growth, and survival (e.g., Bloch, 1809;Thornton et al., 2010;Levin et al., 2016). To meet the needs of a rising human population (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2017), demand for fisheries resources is expected to continue growing (FAO, 2018). ...
Article
Understanding the extinction risk of taxonomic groups increases our ability to prioritize efforts to address biodiversity loss. Over 400 species of herrings, shads, sardines, anchovies, menhadens, and relatives belong to the Order Clupeiformes and include many of the most important forage fishes. These small, schooling fishes are ecologically, economically, and culturally significant. However, despite their global contribution to fisheries and our increasing reliance on them for food and modern commodities, we lack critical information regarding basic biology and population trends for most species. We applied the IUCN Red List methodology, a comprehensive and systematic approach to assess extinction risk, to all clupeiform species. The best estimate suggests nearly 11% of species are of elevated conservation concern, although this could be as high as 36%. Two regions, the Caribbean and the Indo-Malay-Philippine Archipelago have high concentrations of threatened and Data Deficient species and are areas of conservation concern. Major threats include overexploitation, pollution, and habitat modification. Immediate conservation priorities include: 1) increasing research and mitigative action directed toward species assessed as threatened or Data Deficient; 2) improving fisheries management regulations for the understudied but heavily exploited species, and 3) promoting local, intensive habitat restoration to reduce pollution and remove dams. These extinction risk assessments and subsequent analyses should be used as an informative tool for fisheries and conservation managers and to monitor conservation progress.
... Decades of research with local First Nations, however, has demonstrated that their traditional subsistence systems, like that of the Native Hawaiian agriculturalists, encompasses the management of resources and ecosystems from the sub-alpine to the sub-tidal (e.g., Deur and Turner 2005a;Hunn et al. 2003;Lepofsky and Lertzman 2008;Turner 2014;Turner et al. 2013). The combined ethnographic and archaeological records indicate that marine management specifically incorporates choices about location, timing, gear size, and catch limits (e.g., Lepofsky and Caldwell 2013;Losey 2010;Moss 2013;White 2011), tenure systems or other cultural proscriptions that limit the amount and timing of harvests (e.g., Drucker 1951;Turner et al. 2005), habitat enhancement (e.g., George 2003;Langdon 2006), and transplanting of finfish to new locations (e.g., Jones 2002;Thornton in press;Thornton and Kitka in press;Thornton et al. 2010). These marine management practices are nested within larger social systems that include teachings about ways to behave, and oral traditions, rituals, and ceremonies that often promote the well-being of resources and ecosystems (Deur et al. 2014;George 2003;Langdon 2006;Lepofsky and Caldwell 2013;Thornton 2008;Turner 2005Turner , 2014. ...
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While there is increasing recognition among archaeologists of the extent to which non-agricultural societies have managed their terrestrial ecosystems, the traditional management of marine ecosystems has been largely ignored. In this paper, we bring together Indigenous ecological knowledge, coastal geomorphological observations, and archaeological data to document how Northwest Coast First Nations cultivated clams to maintain and increase productivity. We focus on "clam gardens", walled intertidal terraces constructed to increase bivalve habitat and productivity. Our survey and excavations of clam gardens in four locations in British Columbia provides insights into the ecological and social context, morphology, construction, and the first reported ages of these features. These data demonstrate the extent of traditional maricultural systems among coastal First Nations, and coupled with previously collected information on terrestrial management, challenges us to broaden our definition of "forager" as applied to Northwest Coast peoples. This study also highlights the value of combining diverse kinds of knowledge, including archaeological data, to understand the social and ecological contexts of traditional management systems.
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Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) plays an important and multifaceted role in the Northeast Pacific as a forage fish in coastal ecosystems, target species for commercial fisheries, and culturally significant subsistence resource for coastal communities. This study comparatively evaluated herring fisheries management strategy performance relative to ecological and socioeconomic objectives. Management strategy evaluation employed a mass-balanced ecosystem operating model and accounted for parameter uncertainty, stock assessment error, and strategy implementation error through Monte Carlo resampling. Results revealed a notable trade-off between stable herring catches and high biomasses of herring and several predators. Herring biomass control point values influenced this trade-off more than harvest control rule form. All British Columbia and Alaska strategies yielded similar ecological and socioeconomic impacts relative to the unfished herring baseline. Precautionary strategies recommended for forage fish combined high ecosystem benefits and socioeconomic costs. Reducing fishing mortality fourfold within an existing strategy suggested a possible compromise solution to this trade-off. However, ecological impacts of all strategies were sensitive to operating model parameter uncertainty, stock assessment error, and strategy implementation error, with the potential for undesirable ecosystem states across all strategies. This study suggests trade-offs among management objectives should be considered in pursuing ecosystem-based fisheries management for forage fish.
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This paper provides a theoretical treatment of hunter-gatherer diet and physiology. Through a synthesis of nutritional studies, informed by northeastern Pacific Rim ethno-archaeological data, we examine the risk of protein-rich diets for human survival, and how this militates against the widely held notion of a cultural “specialization” on dried salmon. Fundamental nutritional constraints associated with salmon storage and consumption counter long-standing assumptions about the engine of cultural evolution in the region. Excess consumption of lean meat can lead to protein poisoning, termed by early explorers “rabbit starvation.” While this problem is not usually perceived as associated with fish, the risk of protein poisoning limits the amount of low-fat fish that people can eat safely. Compared to smaller, mass-harvested species (e.g., eulachon), dried salmon are exceedingly lean. Under certain circumstances fattier foods (small forage fish, marine mammals, whales, even bears) or carbohydrate-rich plants may have been preferred not just for taste but to circumvent this “dietary protein ceiling.” Simply put, “salmon specialization” cannot evolve without access to complimentary caloric energy through fat- or carbohydrate-rich resources. By extension, the evolution of storage-based societies requires this problem be solved prior to-or in tandem with-salmon intensification. Without such solutions, increased mortality and reproductive rates would have made salmon reliance unsustainable. This insight is in line with genomic research suggesting protein toxicity avoidance was a powerful evolutionary force, possibly linked to genetic adaptations among First Americans. It is also relevant to evaluating the plausibility of other purportedly “focal” economies and informs understanding of the many solutions varied global societies have engineered to overcome their physiological limits.
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The maritime fur trade caused the extirpation of sea otters from southeast Alaska. In the 1960s, sea otters were reintroduced, and their numbers have increased. Now, sea otters are competing with people for what have become commercially important invertebrates. After having been absent for more than a century, the reentry of this keystone species has unsettled people. Although some communities perceive sea otters as a threat to their livelihoods, others view their return as restoration of the marine ecosystem. The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act authorizes any Alaska Native to harvest sea otters for subsistence provided that the harvest is not wasteful. Some people are seeking to define “traditional” Tlingit use of sea otters as not only using their pelts but consuming them as food, but some Tlingit maintain they never ate sea otters. This project analyzes the largest precontact archaeological assemblage of sea otter bones in southeast Alaska, with the benefit of insights gained from observing a Tlingit hunter skin a sea otter to infer that Tlingit ancestors hunted sea otters primarily for pelts. The extent to which other Indigenous peoples of the North Pacific consumed sea otters as food deserves investigation, especially as sea otters recolonize their historic range.
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Evidence has accumulated that climate variability influences the state and functioning of marine ecosystems. At the same time increasing pressure from exploitation and other human activities has been shown to impact exploited and non-exploited species and potentially modify ecosystem structure. There has been a tendency among marine scientists to pose the question as a dichotomy, i.e., whether (1) "natural" climate variability or (2) fishery exploitation bears the primary responsibility for population declines in fish populations and the associated ecosystem changes. However, effects of both climate and exploitation are probably substantially involved in most cases. More importantly, climate and exploitation interact in their effects, such that climate may cause failure in a fishery management scheme but that fishery exploitation may also disrupt the ability of a resource population to withstand, or adjust to, climate changes. Here, we review how exploitation, by altering the structure of populations and ecosystems, can modify their ability to respond to climate. The demographic effects of fishing (removal of large-old individuals) can have substantial consequences on the capacity of populations to buffer climate variability through various pathways (direct demographic effects, effects on migration, parental effects). In a similar way, selection of population sub-units within metapopulations may also lead to a reduction in the capacity of populations to withstand climate variability and change. At the ecosystem level, reduced complexity by elimination of species, such as might occur by fishing, may be destabilizing and could lead to reduced resilience to perturbations. Differential exploitation of marine resources could also promote increased turnover rates in marine ecosystems, which would exacerbate the effects of environmental changes. Overall (and despite the specificities of local situations) reduction in marine diversity at the individual, population and ecosystem levels will likely lead to a reduction in the resilience and an increase in the response of populations and ecosystems to future climate variability and change. Future management schemes will have to consider the structure and functioning of populations and ecosystems in a wider sense in order to maximise the ability of marine fauna to adapt to future climates. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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