Archive for March, 2009

Vic & Ann, salmon bycatch, gardening & more

March 31, 2009

By Victoria Briggs

Pilot Point/Ugashik has had enough blowing snow and wind the last ten days-to-two weeks for us to think it was mid-January.  It’s been a winter of prolonged cold spells but precious little snow. Global warming at its best, from what I understand.

I am doing this in a hurry, so, if it is not complete, I apologize.  I will double-check before doing the next update.  Unexpected plans (see below) are keeping me hopping.


Mt Redoubt is wreaking havoc with mail deliveries, so do not be alarmed if your boxes are not listed.

1 box from B Family
Anchorage, AK

1 box from C T
Sterling, AK

1 box from E D
Wasilla, AK

Ms You Know Who – thanks for the hair dryer – it is already at work:-)

3 boxes from LG

1 box from Linda (my helper was writing, so not sure if the last name is missed or she couldn’t read it)
Willoughby, OH

5 boxes from TT
Juneau, AK

Thank you all so much and we really do appreciate the variety you continue to come up with. We are good at this point on beans, sugar, flour (I believe I got everyone stocked up well for a bit on these basics), and powered milk

Although we are low on supplies, I am trying not to panic, because I feel the lack of mail shipments is due to the volcano interrupting flights into the state.

Doing this each week, I (and sometimes my 4-year old ‘helper’) unpack and make up bags to distribute so we usually have a start on the next ‘bag’. This helps us give our families a balanced bag most times with a little from all food groups.

Spring may be the hardest time as we are still many weeks away from fresh game and fish or the chance to return to spring/summer jobs.

Two families were added to our list this past week, one returning from some time away due to health issues, and another finding themselves in a place they never imagined!

We have received the goodies for our toddler needing additional formula and for our lady with the yogurt/dairy need. Thanks so much from both of those families for keeping them and their needs in your thoughts.

I contacted the Alaska Food Bank and am attempting to track down some shipments of food to a local Native Association that the state sent out. No luck so far, but I will let you know when I find them.

OVERALL, please know we are ever so thankful that you continue to support us and keep us in your thoughts. The words of encouragement and ‘extras’ you are sending are helping ever so much!!!

Our kids have pen pals in Hawaii!

Our kids are corresponding with the 2nd grade class in Hawaii via letters and art. Wish I could send kid photos, but we have a bunch that are camera shy :-)

Hopefully, I will get some of the art work to share in the future with you.  Our kids are thrilled having ‘pen pals’ with whom they really have so much in common: fish, different weather than most of the US, different things to eat, ‘island’ life, Native culture, etc.

Salmon bycatch update

Yesterday, Ann and I were invited to attend the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Anchorage this week to testify directly to them on the Chinook Salmon By-Catch issue.

With travel being so expensive, over $1000 for us to just get to Anchorage, it was not within our individual means to go, and we did not feel we could ask for help again.

A group we have been working with offered to pay our way, which came VERY unexpectedly, and we are thrilled.  After some discussion between Ann and me, and considering her ongoing “bug”, it was decided I would make this trip alone. I am in touch with Ann and all those in her village who have helped us so far, and I will attempt to present their side of the issues as best I can.

IF I remember correctly, I will be allowed 3 minutes of testimony, amongst days of others doing the same thing. We expect to hear, mostly, from large corporations and some other groups.  Few individual speakers directly impacted by the bycatch limits are expected to address the council, so the hope is they will take that into account.

I will spend the next couple of days jotting notes on ‘talking points’ and getting ready to head out Thursday.  I will probably testify on Friday or Saturday and return Sunday.

The final bycatch decision is expected by the time the meeting adjourns the middle of next week.

Editor’s note: We wrote about the pollock bycatch cap in a previous post and asked you to leave comments asking NPFMC to set a 32,500 cap on salmon bycatch. You left a total of 43 comments and they were delivered to NPFMC before the March 25 deadline.

Victoria will now be there in person to present our comments and speak to the Council. Our comments from the lower 48 and as far away as Germany will let them know it’s not just rural Alaskans waiting for them to do the right thing.

In other news…

window-plants-kitchen-windowIn the Bristol Bay/Alaska Peninsula area, where Pilot Point and Ugashik are located, we have two different meetings this week.  The first one is in preparation for a meeting later in the year that deals with fishing regulations for our area.  A second meeting this week deals with the lack of a subsistence level of moose. These will keep a number of us busy for a few days.

I continue to work on the gardening updates so keep checking in on our ‘gardening journal’ page. We are putting a plan together for the kids to start seed before they leave school in May and planning how we will get the garden under way when life gets ever so busy for all of us due to fishing.

I am going to have to end for now as there is much to do before I leave for the meeting but know that Ann and I are ‘talking’ and our team of ‘helpers’ are keeping us sane with all of their support.

There are not enough or the right words to express all we both feel, and the villagers you are touching, with this show of support!!

Vic’s report from the gardening conference

March 25, 2009

By Victoria Briggs
March 25, 2009 

lettuce1After most of last week in Fairbanks attending the 5th Annual Alaska Sustainable Agriculture and Organic Gardening workshop I am still trying to process all I saw and heard. 

First off Alaska is in the great position of having much more demand for its agricultural products than supply. Most of the farmers, and there is a full assortment of products produced, are making a great effort to extend their offerings to more of Alaska than just their immediate areas. 

Read the rest of the report or leave a comment

Do a Mitzvah this Passover – help rural Alaskans!

March 25, 2009

By Secret Talker Δ

The first Seder of Passover will be on April 8 (Nissan14) this year. This ancient Jewish Holiday celebrates the Exodus from Egypt with a retelling of that story, special prayers, study and the doing of good deeds that are actually commandments, as well as the eating of matzah (unleavened bread).

Hospitality is a time-honored tradition and we open the door, lift the uncovered plate of matzah from our Seder table and say:

“Behold the MATZAH, bread of poverty, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat; all who are needy, come and celebrate the Passover with us.”

This year in honor of Passover I will be sending flat rate boxes to all the villages we are helping. I encourage all who visit here to participate with me in doing this deed.

And I will also have a flat rate box at my Seder and invite friends and family to come with goods to fill it!!!

If you are making a Seder or have been invited to one, perhaps you can do as I am doing and include our Alaskan neighbors in your celebration. Invite guests to bring items to fill a flat rate box at your Seder and have extra boxes on hand for people to take home.

Then too, please share this appeal from anonymousbloggers with your friends, your congregations, blogs you visit and your e-mail buddies.


Hog  Samayoch ~ Happy Holiday Everyone!
Secret Talker  Δ

Don’t make us do this! Cap bycatch at 32,500

March 17, 2009

Update: The deadline for comments was March 25 and our comments have been delivered to the NPFMC. Thank you all for your thoughts! We will let you know what the outcome of the meeting is.

Send your comments to NPFMC asking them to cap salmon bycatch before March 25!!

fishsand3Factory-owned trawlers fishing for pollock in the waters off Alaska’s coast cater to America and the world’s growing appetite for fast-food fish sandwiches, fish sticks and imitation crab (Krab) and lobster.

Sadly, tens of thousands of salmon are snared in the huge nets of pollock trawlers and don’t live to make their right of passage – a courageous trip against the pristine  river currents of Alaska, and some all the way to spawning grounds in Canada to reproduce and guarantee the survival of their species.

Rural communities in Alaska depend on a healthy salmon run each year. Subsistence fishermen fish throughout the summer, under strict regulations, and normally harvest enough salmon to preserve for the winter. The local commercial village fishermen also use their catch to pay for their families’ need for cash items like fuel, help support local businesses and pump cash into local economies that help others support their families.

Commercial pollock trawlers are intercepting and killing these same salmon upon which rural fishermen depend. Since 2002 the bycatch, salmon caught in pollock nets, has been as high as 121,000 – many of which should have been preserved and stored in our neighbor’s winter pantries.

Native Americans living in villages in rural Alaska depend on an abundance of salmon. This winter’s scarcity brought to the forefront just how important a healthy salmon fishery is.

salmonsafePlease take a few moments to let the North Pacific Fishery Management Council know the world is watching. Demand that they cap salmon bycatch at 32,500 so more Chinook salmon have a chance to swim upstream next summer.

It took a worldwide boycott to make tuna dolphin-safe. Self-regulation has not been working in the pollock fishing industry. Add your voice to the cry for a salmon bycatch cap, send a comment to the NPFMC here.

The salmon bycatch cap and why it’s important…

Send comments to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council before March 25, 2009 demanding a 32,500 bycatch cap!

The demand for pollock to produce fish sticks, fish patties, imitation crab and many other fish products is threatening the health of a huge fishery off Alaska’s coast. Huge factory-owned trawlers capture tens of thousands of salmon in their nets. This “bycatch” in thrown back, dead after hours of being dragged in a trawl net

Fishermen in rural villages depend on a healthy salmon run each year. For thousands of years, Native American villagers have relied on an abundant salmon run to preserve for their winter diet. The salmon run was so bad this year that rural Alaskans are struggling to feed their families.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will meet April 1-7, 2009 in Anchorage to choose a management measure to reduce Chinook salmon bycatch. The Council is considering a hard cap on salmon bycatch, which would close the pollock fishery down once the cap was reached. The Council is considering a range of hard caps from 29,000 to 87,500. Many Western Alaska groups are recommending a hard cap of 32,500 or lower. This 32,500 cap is based on the average bycatch prior to 2002, when the Yukon River Salmon Agreement was signed. The Agreement requires bycatch reduction and meeting escapement goals into Canada every year. Since 2002 bycatch has gone up, with over 121,000 Chinook salmon killed in the pollock fishery in one year!

The Chinook salmon that die each year in pollock nets would make a huge difference in the life and wellbeing of hundreds of rural Alaskan families in coming years. In these hard times for our communities and our Chinook salmon runs, every single salmon makes a difference.

Please join us in our effort to protect the Chinook salmon that Alaska’s Native peoples depend upon. Send a comment to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council asking them to protect salmon from pollock fishing bycatch.

They will be accepting written comments for consideration until March 25. You can also provide comments in person at the meeting in Anchorage, April 1-7. Please take a moment to request the bycatch cap be set at 32,500 for Chinook salmon.

Key points to include in comments are:

• The importance of Chinook salmon to you and the people of your region for subsistence and/or commercial fisheries;
• The impacts recent years of low Chinook runs have had on you, your family and your community;
• The Council and NMFS should adopt a hard cap of no more than 32,500 Chinook salmon immediately to protect Western Alaska Chinook salmon.

You can submit written comments to the Council.

Send to: North Pacific Fishery Management Council
605 West 4 Avenue, Suite 306
Anchorage, AK 99501-2252
Fax: (907) 271-2817

ALAKANUK – another village asks for help!

March 10, 2009
Mar 10, 2009

I adopted another village, Alakanuk.  I contacted their Tribal Council and received word today that they would like me to help them get a food/fuel drive started for them.

Alakanuk (uh LUCK uh NUK)

Located in between Nunam Iqua and Emmonak.
Population: 700+
Households: 154

A community garden update from Victoria…

March 10, 2009

Mar 10, 2009pilot_po17

Photo by Elizabeth Manfred

Thanks to all of you I am going to the sustainable/gardening conference!!!

L.Gardener stepped up and offered, Saturday I believe, have lost track of time:-), to pay for my plane ticket so it would be a ‘for sure’ thing. Then as people contributed we could gather funds and reimburse her.

That is now done with a number of people from all over jumping in to help defray the cost. (I do not yet know how much has been contributed to far but will give a full recap and thank you’s when we get it worked out)

I also had AF of Houston do the same for the hotel.

We will get the conference fees, $60, taken care from funds also. So it looks like I am on my way this coming weekend- March 16-18th!!!!

I have had a couple of offers of a place to stay in Anchorage if there is a lay over. It is not planned as of now but in Alaska you ALWAYS prepare for weather or other delays. I am in touch with the people that made the offers and will be happy to call on them if needed. The kindness is overwhelming at times!

I am excited about attending and feel this will be a jump start to our efforts to assist our villages in producing some of their own food needs.

We have had an offer for the local school kids to be adopted by a class room of kids in HI and we are working on that.

We have a plan to have the kids start seeds so we have a jump start on the season. A place in PIP has already been chosen and we are looking at getting a program through the summer school to help us plant and maintain.

Most of our local families are tied up from about mid May until the end of July prepping for commercial fishing and then participating. We are VERY MUCH a one industry/income town, both Ugashik and Pilot Point.

If we can use the school program to be the general overseers then the effort will not be neglected while families are fishing.

Usually during fishing we have time, here and there, to do other tasks we want to make sure our efforts are not lost by getting too busy. Also having these gardening skills learned by our children and others from the area will increase the chances of success.

There are also a few adults and elders that are not involved in fishing that will most likely assist also. The information I am able to bring back, as it ALL pertains to Alaska growing of food, will most likely allow us to skip some of the most common mistakes.

I also will be looking for ways to contribute to Ann’s area, about 400 miles north of us, so they can benefit too.

Ann’s area is located on the delta of the Yukon River so growing your own food is more of a challenge. Traditionally most “veggies” and “greens” were harvested from the tundra, like many did from the forests in the lower 48. Learning new ways is going to be a challenge but one many seem thrilled to try.

We are working together to support the traditional ways but also provide new avenues to provide these needs if they can not be harvested locally, as in the past.

All of the Western villages rely heavily on our salmon runs and access to local game. Both villages were impacted with the lack of a salmon run, for various reasons, with the most widely noted being the YK Delta run.

Ann and I are currently working to help in this area too. If the security of our salmon runs interests you please see the ‘Salmon Bycatch’ thread. It’s a complex but important issue. We will be glad to answer any questions you have about fishing issues on the threads in the new Fishing Issues section on the right.

Stay tuned as when I return I will have LOTS to report.

Thank you all so much for believing in our efforts and helping with our future,


Send Victoria to the gardening conference!

March 6, 2009

Mar 6, 2009

If there are topics we have missed, please let us know.

We have a solution in the works!

LGardener has offered to make reservations and purchase Victoria’s ticket using her credit card. Others have stepped in and offered to contribute. This is a much more efficient way to do this because people don’t have to rely on checks arriving in Ugashik in time for Vic to book her flights. One wrinkle might be a forced stopover in Anchorage and need for a hotel room. Anybody out there have a sofa if it comes to that?

We’ll post details here as we get them.

Thanks to all!

This page is a hasty attempt to give a little more attention to something we’ve been working on in the gardening thread.

Victoria Briggs, of Ugashik, is trying to get funding to attend a sustainable gardening conference in the middle of March in Fairbanks. She has been working toward starting a community garden in Pilot Point. It would be located next to the High School and utilize excess heat to extend the growing season. There’s more about what she will be growing and comments so far from the gardening thread here.

She has asked Senator Begich to help and has not received a response yet. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign has written on her behalf to Representative Edgmon but he hasn’t replied.

She has been offered a place to stay by one of the sponsors and the conference will waive her registration fee. The only thing missing is money for airfare.

If you would like to make a donation specifically for Victoria’s airfare, please write “Victoria/gardening” on your check.

Thank you again everyone for all you have done and are doing!

Nunam Iqua Snow Drifts

March 1, 2009

Mar 1, 2009