Fish Farms and Traps for S.E. Alaska?

Fishing for king salmon in S.E. Alaska isn’t good. Most of the big fish are gone and with the Eleatic reasoning of humans fights over dwindling fish supply become intensified yet petty. Historically though, native Tlingit people didn’t need commercial fishing fleets at all to exploit the fishery resource as they developed a region-spanning network of fish traps to catch all of the fish they wanted without extirpating the resource through intense competition and overuse.   An integrated fish trap network spanning S.E. Alaska could replace the entire commercial fishing fleet on interior waters and create better sports and subsistence fishing too while bringing up to the present efficient fishing management of the pre-Columbian era.

Before going too far in this post, I should mention that when I wrote a brief piece on the members-only Wrangell page at Facebook inquiring if fish farming was a good way to create new jobs in the area, among a few initial good relies I received several abusive ones including death or dismemberment threats, that I was able to dampen down as the author creating the thread. The topic is difficult to bring up in these small communities where population is in decline some people cohere with inertially or historical inertial micro-economics without circumspection concerning macro-economic facts regarding world supply and demand. There is a paucity of philosophical thought or conjecture in the public sector concerning what better ways might exist to do things, though it should be self-evident. Language is something of a luxury beyond necessary use.  Kill the fish-eating ducks (to get more fish-someone once said that to me).

I don’t know if it was the native sector or the white people and others sector that was providing the threats- maybe both. One native fellow with a white name mentioned interference with native culture as a problem. Many Tlingit are of mixed race and may identify  with both cultures, and realistically Tlingits and other Alaska natives are mostly already saturated by and integrated with the national culture sometimes; traveling abroad to work.

Some locals apparently believe that the region will not be pressurized more by global warming and demographic increase challenges and change can be frozen, driven out or rolled back. I was told by one fellow that the Wrangell Institute still bothered him years ago and I didn’t know why as I got here years after the place closed. Recently the news that Canadian sites where native youth were buried in mass graves at boarding schools prompted an inquiry that is ongoing at the Wrangell site, closed since the 70s I believe. The Wrangell Institute inquiry is ongoing to determine if any bodies were buried there at what was an educational institute run by the US Government for native Alaskan youth. While forensic archaeology of such matters is necessary, present day economics and changes cannot be sustained upon archaeology and require investments too. To get out front ahead of changes decided by global powers it might be a good idea to develop an economy that could adapt and employ Tlingits and other Alaskans the remainder of the 21st century.

Fish traps were banned in Alaska for salmon fishing during the time of U.S. ownership of the territory and native Tlingit infrastructure had long fallen into disuse and wasted away probably during the period of Russian colonization when ships and boats with canon dominated the waters of S.E. Alaska. American fish traps were not regulated well if at all in the early 20th century and caught so many fish that the resource crashed, twice, and so fish traps were banned.

A modern system of fish traps to replace commercial boats could allow comprehensive and exact management of actual numbers of fish taken in the region and let adequate numbers of fish swim on upstream. To spawn. Regulation of fisheries and capitalism can be good, poorly regulated, bad. Sports and subsistence fishermen too would have a chance to take a good number of fish. In some locales the opportunity to catch a 50 lb king the next 30 years is non-existent. You may wonder why salmon fishery management shouldn’t be so simple?

https://www.fao.org/state-of-fisheries-aquaculture

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/07/fish-stocks-are-used-up-fisheries-subsidies-must-stop/

https://globalsalmoninitiative.org/en/our-work/the-future-of-aquaculture/

https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/aquaculture/rabobank-norway-china-to-lead-the-progress-of-offshore-aquaculture

https://wholeoceans.com/ land based aquaculture

 Politicians and pressure from commercial fishermen prefers a sloppy,  inexact, exclusive way of dominating Alaska salmon fishing. Power politically continues to support inefficient . Volatile, unstable stocks fishery management. Salmon fishing with such an exclusive group controlling it creates a tiny minority political foundation probably unable to adequately defend salmon spawning environments against antipathetic development upstream from polluting mines, from shoreline housing development and pollution from various sources such as flush toilets and sewage waste effluence releasing drugs and other chemicals into the water. Occasionally politicians that support gross logging are elected to bring insults to the Tongass forest that is the region where fish return. 

 Because salmon swim in the open ocean before returning to specific rivers to spawn at various intervals a vast numbers of fish are lost to international fleets taking fish in extra-territorial waters. With poor fishery management and inefficient use of resources because of the unwillingness to use Tlingit fish trap network infrastructure paradigmata, another way need be found to increase the annual stock of fish in S.E. to meet world demand for salmon; good fishing for sports and subsistence sectors, jobs for more Americans and a stable, sustainable fish supply, and that could be new age fish farming. There are problesm with present fish farming methods that should and probably could be overcome with rational systems analysis corrections, research, applied new tech etc. before fish farming were to exist in Alaska. The state could set some very high, ideal goals for fish farming that if complied with would allow fish farm developers to go ahead.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/41104443 Tlingit fish traps of ‘pre-history’

http://www.alaskaanthropology.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/akanth-articles_362_v9_n1_Smith.pdf update on Tlingit fish trap network

https://irma.nps.gov/DataStore/DownloadFile/469271 Traditional Tlingit fisheries mangement

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/11/global-salmon-farming-harming-marine-life-and-costing-billions-in-damage

  Fish farming was banned in Alaska too. Worries about pollution from salmon excrement, contamination of local native fish stocks by genetically engineered or foreign fish, and pressure from the commercial fish special interest groups prevailed to make fish farming in the state illegal. Yet with new technology and  regulations the state of Alaska could conditionally allow fish farming the meets criteria for non-pollution, non-genetic engineering and non-foreign species. Those might be rigorous criteria for the new industry to meet yet the financial incentive exists. Norway’s comparatively dirty fish farms send the salmon excrement into the sea in areas with good currents for dispersal. Even so they produce 400 million fish at any given time and if those fish were worth $5.00 apiece when grown that is a two billion dollar sustainable prize.

Regulating fishing to use non-polluting, healthy fish farms and fish traps that renewed the ancient Tlingit network of fish traps could create enough aquaculture to defrappe the ingression of environmentally unsound and ecosphere eradicating shore business that is typical of the contemporary global unsustainable economic practices. Alaska native capitalists could join with other investors to create thousands of jobs and double the number of salmon caught and marketed from S.E. Alaska.