Some view the resources of Lingit Aani as export commodities. Extraction practices leave Alaska Natives poor and destitute in our own land while others get rich off of what used to be ours.
The Tongass National Forest is a globally significant source of wild salmon and efforts should be made to preserve that resource, the forest’s fish program manager said at a “Lunch and Learn” presentation at the Alaska State Capitol Thursday.
Ron Medel said that while non-wild salmon may outsell wild salmon, salmon that hatch in and return to the wild as part of their natural life cycle carry significant commercial, cultural and ecological value.
“What farmed fish don’t do — they don’t bring back the nutrients from the ocean,” Medel said. “And some would argue that hatchery fish don’t do that, either, because they’re coming back to a terminal harvest. They don’t make their way back up into the land to feed the bears and the critters and the eagles.”
Medel also mentioned subsistence harvest of salmon by Alaska Native and Siberian peoples.
“You cannot put a value (on subsistence harvest), and you cannot, for that matter, put a value on how these fish symbolize a relationship to the land, how we treat our land, because they have to come back,” said Medel, referring to the salmon life cycle that sees the fish born in freshwater, go out to live in the ocean, and return to the watershed to spawn and die. “They have to rear, put out to the ocean, and come back.”