Sitka Tribe seeks answers and action for dwindling herring numbers in Alaska’s Sitka Sound

Published on
March 7, 2019

A court hearing was held in Juneau, Alaska earlier this month as part of a civil case filed by the Sitka Tribe against the Alaskan Department of Fish and Game, in an effort to have the department take action to address the dwindling numbers of herring in Sitka Sound, according to The Juneau Empire.  

Although last year, the department expected a catch of more than 11,000 metric tons (MT) of sac roe herring, not even 3,000 MT were produced, according to a report filed by the department as part of the court records. 

This is not the first time the tribe has tried to take action to aid the herring fishery: Before the fishing season started last year, the tribe petitioned the Board of Fisheries with multiple proposals that would reduce catch limits for commercial fishermen in Sitka Sound, the report said. In the proposals, the tribe wrote that commercial overfishing was harming the subsistence fishermen in their community that rely on herring roe for a living. The Board of Fisheries voted against the proposal stating with multiple members who voted against it stating they believed that existing regulations provided “a reasonable opportunity for substance uses.” 

Lawyer Seth Beausang, who is representing the department, said that the Sitka Tribe “has repeatedly changed what it is asking for,” since the case was filed in December of last year. 

On the other side, Tlingit Citizen Vivian Mork said, “The Sitka Tribe of Alaska does understand that there are commercial fisheries and there is subsistence activity and we do feel that we should all be on the same side for the future of the herring, because you’re not going to have commercial fisheries if there are no more herring.” 

Other Native American protestors outside the courthouse earlier in February held signs that read “Protect our Herring,” and “Save our Herring, Save the Future.”

Reporting from Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

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