The Tongass National Forest of Southeast Alaska is a globally significant producer of wild salmon and steps should be taken protect this resource from a variety of threats, according to a top fisheries biologist with the U.S. Forest Service who spoke in Juneau recently.
Ron Medel, fisheries program manager for the Tongass National Forest, gave two addresses in Alaska’s capital city on April 3 and 4 about the abundance of wild salmon from Southeast Alaska’s 17-million-acre temperate rainforest.
According to a Juneau Empire article, Medel told the House Fisheries Committee that an average 79 percent of salmon commercially caught in the region every year are wild fish from the Tongass. That equates to about 28 percent of Alaska’s annual commercial salmon catch and 25.6 percent of the commercial salmon catch in the Northeastern Pacific Ocean region, said Medel, who spoke the night before at Centennial Hall.
The article quoted Medel as saying, “it’s a big bloc of fish.”
“If we’re not America’s salmon forest, tell me a forest that is,” said Medel.
Congratulations to Tony Christianson, the mayor of Hydaburg, for winning a national award from the U.S. Forest Service for his leadership in fisheries stewardship. The Forest Service issued a statement recently that said Christianson of the Hydaburg Cooperative Association, the federally recognized tribe in the Prince of Wales community, is being honored for bridging Traditional Ecological Knowledge with Western management for fisheries and subsistence management benefits on the Tongass National Forest. He has done so in cooperation with the Forest Service’s Alaska Region, the Federal Subsistence Board, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
As the Natural Resources Director for Hydaburg Tribes, Tony, whose traditional Haida name is “Saanhl_K_ingwaas,” is a leading fisheries scientist in the Pacific Northwest. He is respected for his leadership and wisdom on recreation, forest, watershed, heritage, and subsistence resource management of the national forest lands of Alaska. He has dedicated himself over the past 10 years to engaging local tribal members in fisheries resource management and is responsible for the creation of many fisheries and natural management jobs for his Tribe and the surrounding community that also provide invaluable data to the Forest Service Subsistence Fisheries Resource Monitoring Program (FRMP).
Among his many accomplishments is his critical role in the resurrection of an important sockeye salmon run to Hetta Lake.
Tony told Trout Unlimited that since sockeye is a critical subsistence fish for the tribe, it was important to make sure that the population was healthy. After the tribe gathered data that showed escapement was low, they encouraged members not to fish the early June run. This self-imposed closure has worked to boost the number of spawning salmon returning to Hetta Lake by several hundred, restored the run and underscored the success of the tribal sockeye monitoring project.
“There’s a lot more trust when it’s the tribe that’s collecting the data,” Tony said.
The Hetta Lake sockeye project is part of the Forest Service’s Subsistence Fisheries and Wildlife Monitoring Program in Alaska. The program gathers information on the number one subsistence fish in Southeast – sockeye salmon. The goal is to understand how many sockeye return to freshwater to spawn so regulators can optimize the harvest or make in-season adjustments.
Tony’s award will be presented at a ceremony on the evening of May 14, 2013, at the Hyatt Hotel in Arlington, Virginia.