*Update* Alaskan and Canadian First Nations and Tribes Along the Yukon Call For ZERO Salmon Bycatch



Aug 16, 2009

It’s too bad Commerce Secretary Gary Locke didn’t join the other Cabinet Secretaries when they visited bush Alaska as part of the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Tour. Residents could have explained to him in person a couple of recent requests he has received from Alaska.

The first request was from Governor Sean Parnell asking him to declare a fishing disaster along the Yukon. Everyone reading this blog knows this is a year overdue and we are very glad Governor Parnell is trying to avoid a repeat of last year’s crisis. Thank you  Governor Parnell!!

The second message is from the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC) urging Secretary Locke to invoke his emergency regulatory authority and order the pollock industry to reduce its annual bycatch to ZERO!

At its annual meeting held recently at Lake Laberge in Canada’s Yukon Territory, the Council voted for a resolution asking Secretary Locke to stop the pollock industry’s wasteful practice of killing and throwing back Chinook/King Salmon that is snared in the trawl nets of huge floating pollock processing factories. Pollock is commonly used in fish sandwiches, fish sticks and imitation crab.

From the Whitehorse Daily Star:

Under current practice, when salmon are caught in the huge pollock trawler nets, the dead kings are counted and most are thrown back into the ocean, while some are donated to the needy.

“We do know for a fact that the pollock fishery is slaughtering wholesale and wiping out the king salmon stocks out there that are coming into all the major tributaries,” Nick Andrew Jr., executive director of the Ohagamuit Traditional Council in Alaska, told The Associated Press this month.

“The pollock fishery is taking away our way of living.”

YRITWC is an Indigenous grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of the Yukon River Watershed. Made up of 66 First Nations and Tribes from Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory, it is dedicated to protecting and preserving the river that for thousands of years has provided sustenance for those living along its banks.

This advocacy group also protects the river from numerous Alaskan, U.S. and Canadian agencies charged with regulation of the river.

The Roy and Lila Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University recognized this in 2005.

While at least eleven federal, state, and/or provincial agencies have some regulatory responsibility for managing the River and its watershed, no advocacy group existed that was singularly dedicated to the well-being of this watershed. Recognizing the need to preserve the River for the health of their communities, tribal nations, leaders and citizens along the River initiated the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC or “Council”). The YRITWC is the first organization solely dedicated to the responsible management, use, protection, and enhancement of this resource.

The Ash Institute recognizes part of the success of the programs has been its non-Western approach to its internal workings.

The Council maintains external effectiveness in part, because of the authenticity of its internal relations. Its operational procedures are grounded in traditions common to the membership. A previous attempt to use Western-style committees failed. The organization succeeds now because its guiding principles are culturally appropriate and explicitly based on the desired traits of an elder-modeling inclusiveness, listening, patience, knowledge, wisdom, and tenacity in all activities. These traditional norms and procedures help maintain the Council’s relevance to, and re-affirm its authority with, the citizens it serves.

This is the voice the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) should be listening to. Pandering to industry and special interest has led to deep mistrust and resentment of the NPFMC among citizens along the Yukon.

YRITWC is an organization formed solely for the wellbeing of the Yukon and its Peoples. It is important that Secretary Locke understands the importance of this request.

The Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council has a mission:

We, the Indigenous Tribes/First Nations from the headwaters to the mouth of the Yukon River, having been placed here by our Creator, do hereby agree to initiate and continue the clean up and preservation of the Yukon River for the protection of our own and future generations of our Tribes/First Nations and for the continuation of our traditional Native way of life.

We join the Council in urging Secretary Locke to consider the request sent forward by the YRITWC concerning eliminating bycatch in Alaska’s pollock fishery.


Yukon River group granted UN status

Josh Saul
Aug 16, 2009

Earlier this month, Jon Waterhouse, director of the Alaska region for the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, received an interesting e-mail from the United Nations.

The YRITWC is an organization dedicated to keeping the Yukon River clean enough to drink, and three years ago the group began seeking special consultative status to the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council.

The YRITWC succeeded and will now join the 3,284 other non-governmental associations that currently enjoy that consultative status.

“It’s one of the largest rivers in the world, and one of the cleanest,” said Waterhouse. “And we want to keep it that way.”

Read the rest in Alaska Dispatch here.



5 Responses to “*Update* Alaskan and Canadian First Nations and Tribes Along the Yukon Call For ZERO Salmon Bycatch”

  1. alaskapi Says:

    AND YRITWC has been involved in projects which are innovative and cost-conscious with self-sufficiency and sustainability as end goals.


    The NPMFC’s mandate is to deal with ocean fisheries…
    the time has come to understand ocean fisheries do NOT stand alone…
    especially in relation to salmon.

    Much has been made of the greatly reduced salmon bycatch of last year and going into this…
    As the 4-6, 5-7 (depending on who you talk to ) year cycle of salmon going to and returning from the ocean has an obvious lag time for effect to be felt it would be wise to call a moratorium at this point.
    We cannot do anything about all the natural factors, cyclical warming trends of currents, and so on but we can do something about human factors.
    Sure would like to see the pollack industry step up to the plate and apply some good ole American ingenuity to solving the bycatch issue instead of pointing to the tiny percentage of their overall catch which is comprised of salmon BUT doesn’t seem like that will happen.
    At some point, the reality of what percentage of AVAILABLE stocks of salmon are being destroyed should become the measure of the effect of bycatch. Plain and simple…

  2. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    One problem that I see with the NPFMC in their tendency to think that only scientists know what is going on, and their hubris is pretty noticeable. I was a bit surprised to find that Secretary Locke joined VP Biden to to PA as their part of the tour. I do not mean that to sound as though touring rural PA with broad band connectivity in mind is not extremely important, and maybe Locke himself chose that part of the tour to round out his experience in the Pacific Northwest.

    I personally believe that it would be more productive to have him come to the YK because he understands many of these issues thoroughly. Are we starting completely over w/ new people? If they become engaged, that’s great and I welcome the new blood. So I will keep my fingers crossed and in the meantime, I am so glad to see the YRITWC speaking up. We need to water down the haughtiness of the NPFMC with the reality of the people who have lived on this river for hundreds, thousands of years. Our current cache of scientific research does not replace this enduring knowledge of living on the river, it should supplement it.

  3. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    UPDATE: Well isn’t that a creative step toward legitimacy of the YRITWC! Hurray! I like these people already, they sound like they are planning to dig in and make a difference.

  4. KateinCanada Says:

    I don’t know if fish farming has any effect on the King Salmon, but it has become evident that it is the probably cause of a disater in this year’s Fraser River sockeye run.
    See this Globe and Mail article
    I refuse to buy farmed seafood.

  5. Qayaq Says:

    The Yukon River Inter-tribal Watershed Council YRITWC is also leading the way in implimenting practical and relevant Renewable Energy Project Initiatives across the watershed.

    Look at what they are doing here:







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