Local News

Fish & Game to survey Sitka’s subsistence harvest

Tom Wallo dip netting at Redoubt Falls over the weekend. Wallo and his partners netted 11 red salmon on Saturday (7-13-13) during a day of subsistence fishing.

 In many rural Alaskan communities 30% of the population supplies 70% of a community harvest. (KCAW photo)

Sitkans may hear an unexpected knock at their doors this February, if they haven’t already. The Alaska Department of Fish & Game will survey 200 randomly-selected households to find out what was harvested in Sitka last year.

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Davin Holen, a program manager with ADF&G’s Division of Subsistence says he may show up at your door with questions like this: Was your households harvest and use less, the same, or more than in recent years?

“It could be that populations or stocks of fish are down, or people weren’t able to access those resources,” Holen says. “So it just gives us an idea of what has changed over the last few years and what might be impacting people’s ability to meet their harvesting goals.”

The survey is part of a project aimed at filling information gaps on harvesting throughout the state.

Holen says, “that includes all wild resources whether they harvest it under sport fish regulation, or subsistence regulations, or hunting. It’s all wild resources that come into the household.”

At the last state Board of Fisheries meeting, the department realized that Sitka hadn’t been surveyed since 1996.

“Here in Sitka there’s also declines in shellfish that we identified at the last Board of Fisheries meeting and there are several of those issues that led us to the decision to spend what small funds that we have,” says Holen.

So,  if your address made the list here’s what you can expect. For starters, the survey is completely voluntary, anonymous, and confidential. Depending on your level of harvesting activity,  it can take 15 minutes to an hour. A trained surveyor will ask for basic demographic information, as well as how you hunt, gather, and fish. They want to know about techniques, the tools you use, and where you go.

Holen says there is also an economics section. “This is really an important section for us because it takes money to go out and access resources. You have to have a boat, or motor, and sometimes jobs interfere.”

The survey is also designed to reflect cultural practices.

“Subsistence is a lifestyle that involves the harvest of wild resources and also the sharing of wild resources with your family, your neighbors,” says Holen. “So that’s something we identify in rural communities, that people are bringing resources into their household whether they harvest it themselves or they’re given them.” He says sharing resources tends to be a cultural tradition in many rural communities.

As for the 10 year rural reauthorization cycle, Holen says that’s determined by the federal government and he represents the state. The information he gathers could be used in that process, but that’s not the purpose of this survey.

For Holen it’s about painting a complete picture of harvesting across the state. And identifying trends. For instance, in many rural Alaskan communities 70% of a community harvest comes from 30% of households. It’s up to the boards of fisheries and game to then decide what to do with that information.

The crew will be in town until February 24th, or until they determine that the survey is complete.

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