ArticlePDF Available
ornton et al. / Traditional Knowledge of Pacific 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
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
Vol. 14 No. 1 2010
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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. and the full report (ornton et al. 2010).
Thomas F. Thornton, Environmental Change
Institute, University of Oxford, Thomas.thornton@
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
B, E.D., J. S, B.L. N, 
H.P. H.
2002 Ecology of herring and other forage fish
as recorded by resource users of Prince
William Sound and the Outer Kenai,
Alaska. Alaska Fisheries Research Bulletin
C, M.
2011 “Fish traps and shell middens at Comox
Harbour, British Columbia,” in The ar-
chaeology of North Pacific fisheries. Edited
by M.L. Moss and A. Cannon, in press.
Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press.
C, S. K.,  V. L. B.
2010 Archaeological evidence for resilience of
Pacific Northwest salmon populations
and the socioecological system over the
last ~7,500 years. Ecology and Society
15(1):17. [online] URL: http://www.
ornton et al. / Traditional Knowledge of Pacific Herring
C, M.G., S.W. J, M.R. L,
A.D. N,  P.M. H.
2008 Status review of Pacific herring (Clupea
pallasii) in Lynn Canal, Alaska. Juneau,
AK: Ted Stevens Marine Research
Institute, Alaska Fisheries Science
Center, Auke Bay Laboratories.
D L, F.
1960 The story of a Tlingit community:
A problem in the relationship between
archeological, ethnological, and historical
methods. Bureau of American Ethnol-
ogy Bulletin 172. Washington, DC: U.S.
Govt. Printing Office.
E, G.T.
1991 The Tlingit Indians. Edited with addi-
tions by Frederica de Laguna. American
Museum of Natural History Anthropologi-
cal Papers, vol. 70. Seattle: University of
Washington Press and the American
Museum of Natural History.
G, A.,  N. T.
2004 Cultural keystone species: Implications
for ecological conservation and restora-
tion. Ecology and Society 9(3):1. [online]
org/vol 9/iss3/art1/.
G, K.
2009 Experts worried about depleted herring
stocks. Juneau Empire, February 12. [on-
line] URL:
H, D.E.,  J.B. M.
1988 “Transplanting Pacific herring eggs in
British Columbia: A stocking experi-
ment” in 11th Annual Larval Fish
Conference. Edited by R.D. Hoyt,
pp. 49-59. Bethesda, MD: American
Fisheries Society Symposium 5.
H, K.
2010 A program for improving management and
research of fisheries in the southeast region -
herring (Division of Commercial Fisheries
Regional Information Report No. 1J10-
01). Juneau: Alaska Department of Fish
and Game.
J, R., C. R,  L. L.
2010 Haida marine planning: First Nations as
a partner in marine conservation. Ecol-
ogy and Society 15(1):12. [online] URL:
M-W, H., B. N, 
N. B.
n.d. “Stock identification of Pacific herring
in Sitka Sound, Alaska using Otolith
chemical analysis.” Manuscript in author’s
M, G.G.
1987 Prey as bait: the Deep Bay example.
Canadian Journal of Archaeology
M, M.L.
1989 Archaeology and cultural ecology of the
prehistoric Angoon Tlingit. Ph.D. diss.,
University of California, Santa Barbara.
P, D.
1995 Anecdotes and the shifting baseline
syndrome of fisheries. Trends in Ecology
& Evolution 10(10):430.
P, B., J-. F, P. C, K.F.
D, S. J, R.I. P,
 S. K
2010 How does fishing alter marine popula-
tions and ecosystems sensitivity to cli-
mate? Journal of Marine Ecosystems 179(3-
Journal of Ecological Anthropology
Vol. 14 No. 1 2010
R, C.
2007 The unnatural history of the sea. London:
Island Press.
R, G.A.
1930 Contribution to the biology of the Pacific
herring, Clupea pallasii, and the condi-
tion of the fishery in Alaska. Bulletin of
the U.S. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries
R, G.A.
1931 Fluctuations in the supply of herring
(Clupea pallasii) in Southeastern Alaska.
Bulletin of the United States Bureau of
Fisheries 47:15-56. Washington, DC:
U.S. Government Printing Office.
T, T.F.
2009 Prepared statement before the House
Fisheries Committee. Alaska State Legis-
lature, Juneau. February 10. Manuscript
in author’s possession.
T, T.F., V.L. B, F. F. M.L.
M, J. H, J.T. E, R. C, S. H-
,  A. A M S.
2010 Herring synthesis: Documenting and model-
ing herring spawning areas within socio-
ecological systems over time in the Southeast-
ern Gulf of Alaska (Final Report, North
Pacific Research Board Project #728).
Portland, OR: Portland State University.
Retrieved January 10, 2010, http://her-
... These facts have prompted an oceanic turn in geography (Anderson and Peters, 2014;Boucquey and St Martin et al., 2019;Steinberg and Peters, 2015;Winder and Le Heron, 2017) and anthropology (Hastrup and Rubow, 2014;Helmreich, 2009;Thornton, 2015;Thornton et al., 2010). These scholars aim to reconfigure the conceptual separation of land and sea through engagement with, and development of, alternative ocean ontologies. ...
Full-text available
Legal frameworks have historically used a colonial territorialist approach to governing ocean space. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982) represents a theoretical departure from colonial territorialism. Instead, UNCLOS employs a functionalist logic approach that is based on principles of sovereignty and consent and uses administrative reasoning as a basis for decision-making. This paper investigates what ontological principles are employed in the development of UNCLOS and asks how these are reproduced in other frameworks. I consider whether ontologies can be extrapolated and studied as latent but agential positions in ocean law and governance frameworks and examine how they might be obstructive to the development of effective regional ocean governance. Lastly, I ask whether ontological principles can be reformed, and through what type of interventions this might be achieved. Results show that tenets of colonial territorialism persist in UNCLOS as terrestrialising practices that are reappropriated towards marine communities. Further, that there are fundamental ways in which ontological principles are obstructive to conservation goals in ocean governance frameworks. Lastly, while the structural reproduction of ontological principles between frameworks resists intervention, evidence suggests that interventionist legal mechanisms that displace anthropocentrisms may offer distinct opportunities for reform.
Full-text available
Modern Western communities have much to learn from the ways in which small-scale societies have survived and even thrived while cycling through phases of profoundly shifting moist to dry environmental conditions. In doing so, these small communities display a resilience developed from thousands of years of being rooted in what Western Society considers ‘marginal’ environments. The most important of the solutions they developed are sustainably rooted in deep-time and identifiable in archaeological records. The ability to live sustainably in these kinds of challenging environments emerges from a profound and long-term reservoir of ‘Traditional Ecological Knowledge’ that includes a keen awareness of the interface between human needs and natural processes. Although these traditional solutions may not apply to massive complex systems that drive the survival of large cities as a whole, we can benefit a great deal from the study of these past societies to help generate ideas for smaller segments and sub-systems of larger cities, such as neighborhood collectives, urban gardening, water conservation methods, and others that will lead us towards a more sustainable existence on our planet through the use ground-up solutions.
Full-text available
Our modern global civilization has been facilitated by increasingly technologically-advanced, interconnected, and interdependent systems. These systems have been constructed at an ever-increasing scale and level of complexity without an awareness of the risky mechanisms inherent in their design. At first glance, one may find few similarities between our modern globalized present and ancient civilizations. When we see past civilizations as complex adaptive systems, however, we can begin to recognize patterns, structures, and dynamics that have remained consistent through the centuries. Mechanisms like tipping points, feedback loops, contagions, cascades, synchronous failures, and cycles that can be responsible for systemic collapse are fundamental characteristics of any complex adaptive system, and can therefore serve as an effective common denominator from which to examine collapses through the ages. We argue for an analytical framework that incorporates these systemic characteristics for the study of historical collapse with the belief that these common mechanisms will help illuminate and expose relevant vulnerabilities in historical systems. In the end, we hope to learn from past societies and civilizations and allow our modern systems to benefit from lessons of systemic failures that historians may share with us. We believe these insights could inform how we see our systemic vulnerabilities and help to build a more resilient future.
Full-text available
The history of Aceh, Indonesia highlights societies’ resilience and vulnerability in the face of natural and human-made disasters. A multi-scalar, qualitative and quantitative analysis of land use changes in nineteenth century Greater Aceh by using GIS analysis, highlights that processes may play out differently at the system and subsystem levels. At the system’s meso and micro levels, the episodic and the structural violence of war, climate anomalies, and tsunamis wiped out entire communities and families of people, animals, and plants while at the macro scale Aceh society showed remarkable resilience. Greater Aceh’s case also suggests that the impact of war through population displacement and the destruction of such environmental infrastructure as homes, villages, orchards, and irrigated fields while less immediately and directly destructive than such episodic events as the devastating 2004 tsunami, nevertheless may have a comparable impact because the events are more sustained and cumulative over a timeframe of years and decades.KeywordsWar- environmental aspectsGlobal environmental changeClimate change and resilience/collapseHuman ecologyNatural and human-made disastersPost-crisis reconstruction
Full-text available
Over the past 3,000 years, speakers of the Ateker family of languages in East Africa chose various strategies to respond to periods of climate change including the end of the African Humid Period and the Medieval Climate Anomaly. Some Ateker people made wholesale changes to food production, adopting transhumant pastoralism or shifting staple crops, while others migrated to wetter lands. All borrowed new economic and social idea from neighbors. These climate-induced changes in turn had profound social and political ramifications marked by an investment in resilient systems for decentralizing power, such as age-classes and neighborhood congresses. By integrating evidence from historical linguistics and oral traditions with paleoclimatological data, this paper explores how a group of stateless societies responded to climate change. It also considers whether these cases complicate concepts such as “collapse” and “resilience” that are derived from analyses of mostly state-centric climate histories.
Full-text available
This chapter discusses the ways in which history can contribute to coping with the current planetary crisis. It argues that historians should engage more in interdisciplinary exchange across the humanities-natural sciences divide. Thus they will be able to create historical narratives fitting for the Anthropocene—both in terms of explaining it and shaping our responses to it, in particular to the acute planetary crisis that marks its advent. At the same time, history should not give up its drive to critically dissect and analyse socio-political, economic, cultural and ecological change, contributing to developing balanced and resilient public policy.
Full-text available
In the decades after 1945, the future gained unprecedented prominence as an object of scientific anticipation and state planning in both capitalist and socialist countries of the Cold War world. In Poland, future studies or futurology emerged in the course of the 1960s in reaction to Western intellectual trends, the post-stalinist political Thaw, as well as the domestic socio-economic situation. The Polish futurology turned out to be one of the most productive, institutionally and personally stable research collectives when compared to other socialist countries. This research community generated various approaches to the problem of how to anticipate the unknown future. This chapter examines three of them: making the future an object of knowledge; subjecting it to conscious (political) control; imagining alternatives to the status quo. Re-examining these historical examples of anticipatory knowledge provides a mirror to discuss our current efforts at predicting and controlling the future.
Full-text available
The existential challenge of mitigating anthropogenic climate change encouraged serious discussions on geoengineering approaches. One of them, Solar Radiation Management (SRM), would mean inserting aerosols into the atmosphere, thus imitating and perpetuating the cooling effects of large volcanic events, such as the 1815 Tambora eruption. However, artificially inserting sulphur aerosols into the atmosphere is connected with considerable uncertainties. One of them, pointed out by several climate scientists, is the different effects on temperature and precipitation in different parts of the globe. These are not the only ones, though. As the largest volcanic eruptions have taken place during the medieval times (ca 500–1500 CE), historical research can reveal further uncertainties in dating these eruptions and their connected socio-environmental effects, and hence on the actual climate and social impacts we might expect from SRM. A combination of humanist and scientific research on past volcanic eruptions therefore has the potential to produce a more precise understanding of past volcanic eruptions and their climatic consequences. As long as we do not acquire a consistent multi-disciplinary perspective on past volcanic eruptions, extreme caution should be taken before investing in geoengineering measures that include the artificial injection of sulphur aerosols in the atmosphere.
Full-text available
In this short introduction we set out the aims of the volume, which represents the fruits of two seminars held in the autumn of 2020. The chapters respond to one big thematic issue: how to research and understand historical societal resilience; and one big question: what sort of past does the future need? They attempt to address these through three linked themes: can history be made more relevant to modern policy in respect of environmental and climate challenges? To what extent do our various sources indicate awareness and management of risk and/or the implementation of mitigating strategies in the past? And how can we identify ‘resilience’ in the social praxis of historical agents?
Full-text available
This article examines short- and long-term governmental policy responses to the effects of the Justinianic Plague (c. 541–750 CE). While many studies have linked the Justinianic Plague to significant changes across all sectors of life, they overlook how states responded to the pandemic’s impact at different temporal scales—from immediate reactions to medium term politics. First, we discuss the immediate state responses to the initial outbreak in Constantinople in 542 at a micro-scale, which included measures to bury large numbers of dead. Second, we investigate the effects over a five-year time frame following the first outbreak to understand how the state responded to potential impacts through fiscal and economic policies. And, third, we reflect upon the post-five year changes scholars often connect to the plague outbreak to reveal the deep difficulties in making in such linkages.
Full-text available
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.
The story of a Tlingit community: A problem in the relationship between archeological, ethnological, and historical methods
1960 The story of a Tlingit community: A problem in the relationship between archeological, ethnological, and historical methods. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 172. Washington, DC: U.S. Govt. Printing Office.
Edited with additions by Frederica de Laguna
1991 The Tlingit Indians. Edited with additions by Frederica de Laguna. American Museum of Natural History Anthropological Papers, vol. 70. Seattle: University of Washington Press and the American Museum of Natural History.
Cultural keystone species: Implications for ecological conservation and restoration
2004 Cultural keystone species: Implications for ecological conservation and restoration. Ecology and Society 9(3):1. [online] URL:http://www.ecologyandsociety. org/vol 9/iss3/art1/.
A program for improving management and research of fisheries in the southeast regionherring
  • K Hebert
Hebert, K. 2010 A program for improving management and research of fisheries in the southeast regionherring (Division of Commercial Fisheries Regional Information Report No. 1J1001). Juneau: Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Stock identification of Pacific herring in Sitka Sound, Alaska using Otolith chemical analysis
  • H Meuret-Woody
  • B Norcross
  • N Bickford
Meuret-Woody, H., B. Norcross, and N. Bickford. n.d. "Stock identification of Pacific herring in Sitka Sound, Alaska using Otolith chemical analysis." Manuscript in author's possession.
Prey as bait: the Deep Bay example
1987 Prey as bait: the Deep Bay example. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 11:119-142.
Anecdotes and the shifting baseline syndrome of fisheries
1995 Anecdotes and the shifting baseline syndrome of fisheries. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 10(10):430.
Clupea pallasii, and the condition of the fishery in Alaska
1930 Contribution to the biology of the Pacific herring, Clupea pallasii, and the condition of the fishery in Alaska. Bulletin of the U.S. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries 45:227-320.