Sitka Tribe of Alaska hosts guest speaker Desirée Lawson for ‘Herring Without Borders’ presentation

Please join Sitka Tribe of Alaska as we host guest speaker Desirée Lawson’s presentation, “Herring Without Borders,” at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 21, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Lawson is a researcher and facilitator for the Revitalizing Indigenous Law for Land, Air, and Water program.

During her talk. Lawson will share Heiltsuk Nation’s experiences with herring advocacy, conservation, and co-management. Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans suspended the 2018 commercial sac roe fishery near Bella Bella, British Columbia, after the Heiltsuk Nation called for DFO managers to allow herring populations to recover — https://www.heiltsuknation.ca/dfos-agreement-to-suspend-roe-herring-fishery-will-give-stocks-an-opportunity-to-recover/.

We hope to see you there! Gunalchéesh. For more details, contact Kyle Rosendale at 747-7241 or kyle.rosendale@sitkatribe-nsn.gov.

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Sitka Tribe of Alaska and partners celebrate fifth annual Sitka Herring Camp

A Mount Edgecumbe High School student examines herring gills under a microscope. (Photo courtesy of Bethany Goodrich)

Students in Sitka schools have been diving deep into the study of herring during Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s fifth annual Herring Camp. The Herring Camp programming was centered on the cultural and ecological importance of Pacific herring and timed to coincide with the arrival of herring in Sitka Sound. Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff spent a week at both Mount Edgecumbe High School and Sitka High School studying herring anatomy and collecting oceanographic data. Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff also examined marine food webs with Blatchley Middle School and will present a “Herring in the Hallways” microscopy event at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School next week.

A Sitka High School student collects plankton aboard a Sitka Herring Camp research cruise. (Photo courtesy of Tara Racine)

Students and teachers have responded positively to the herring programming. Chohla Moll, MEHS science teacher said, “The STA Herring Camp curriculum is an amazing integration of science and traditional ecological knowledge. It illustrates to students the strong connection between the knowledge of their elders and the scientific information they are learning in school.”

The purpose of Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Herring Camp is to invest in youth skills, providing students with hands-on science experience and exposing them to Alaska-based career opportunities. Kyle Rosendale, Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Fisheries Biologist said, “We hope students will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of their local ecosystems and be motivated to become the next generation of stewards for important cultural and ecological resources like herring.”

Students who participated in the Herring Camp learned scientific techniques, gained exposure to traditional ecological knowledge, and connected with Sitka professionals working on natural resource management. The week-long high school camp sessions included dissection labs, discussions on cultural connections and herring ecology, oceanographic and morphometric data analysis, an introduction to fisheries management techniques, career path discussions, and a research cruise during which students applied a variety of field observation and data collection skills.

Herring provide a rich topic of study for local students. Sitka Sound is the last remaining population of herring in the state that consistently provides a significant subsistence herring egg harvest. Sitka herring eggs are shared widely throughout Alaska. Herring are a forage fish and a critical part of the marine food web, providing food for other important species such as lingcod, coho salmon, king salmon, halibut, sea lions and humpback whales. Coastal archeologist Iain McKechnie called herring the “central node of the marine ecosystem”, adding “they aren’t the base, they aren’t the top, but they are the thing through which everything else flows.

Herring Camp (aka, Yaa Khusgé Yaaw Woogoo, or Knowledge of Herring Camp) was started in 2014 and was originally held at Sitka National Historical Park. Now in its fifth year, the Herring Camp has grown to reach classrooms in four local schools and is made possible through collaboration with MEHS, the Sitka School District, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, the US Forest Service, the National Park Service, the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus, the Sitka Conservation Society, the Sitka Sound Science Center, and Allen Marine. Rosendale explains, “Collaboration is absolutely critical to the success of Herring Camp; we couldn’t do it without our collaborators, all of whom have made important contributions to herring outreach and education in Sitka.”

Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s work with Blatchley students was also a part of another community collaboration on herring and food webs. In addition to working with Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff, BMS science teacher Stacy Golden also planned lessons with Charlie Skulkta, Jr., St. Lazaria National Wildlife Refuge, the Alaska Raptor Center, and a boat trip to St. Lazaria.

Financial support for this initiative was generously provided the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Alaska Conservation Foundation.

This year’s camp is held in loving memory of Michelle Ridgeway of Oceanus Alaska. Michelle was a passionate scientist and youth educator. She helped get the Herring Camp off the ground in 2014 and was an integral part of the camp every year until her passing in January of 2018. Her creativity and enthusiasm are deeply missed.

Sitka Tribe of Alaska to host annual Sitka Herring Festival Community Potluck on April 12

The Sitka Tribe of Alaska will host the annual Sitka Herring Festival Community Potluck Dinner at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 12, at Harrigan Centennial Hall, and will celebrate the cultural and ecological importance of Pacific herring.

The potluck is open to the community — please feel free to invite anyone you think may be interested. Please bring a dish to share.
The event also will feature talks on recent work on herring genetics and traditional ecological knowledge by Dr. Lorenz Hauser and Eleni Petrou of the University of Washington. Dr. Hauser will present “What can population genetics do for herring management?” and Ms. Petrou will present “Genetics and traditional ecological knowledge detect herring diversity in Puget Sound.”
Dr. Hauser is a Professor with the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and Principal Investigator of the Marine Population Genomics Lab at UW. In addition to his work on herring genetics in Puget Sound, Dr. Hauser has also collaborated with the Alaska Salmon Program to estimate reproductive success of sockeye salmon. Ms. Petrou is a Ph.D. student in Dr. Hauser’s lab and her interests include investigating marine connectivity and exploring the impacts of human activities on marine ecosystems. She is integrating traditional ecological knowledge into her study of the population genetics of Pacific herring.
For a bit more context, here is a brief article on Dr. Hauser and Ms. Petrou’s work with herring population genetics and traditional ecological knowledge, https://wsg.washington.edu/elder-memories-ancient-dna-and-the-fate-of-the-herring-2/.
For more information, contact fisheries biologist Kyle Rosendale of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Resources Department at 747-7241.