by Maaraq Alice Rose Crow
The following is the public testimony of Maaraq Alice Rose Crow given at the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council meeting on April 8, 2023 for Agenda Item C2: Salmon Bycatch Reports.
Yugtun Maaraugua. Kusquqvagmuinguunga. I’m Alice Rose Crow.
I am but one among multitudes of indigene born for this land our old folks call God’s Country when they choose to use English.
It stings to hear Respected Elders who come to town—yet again—to lament immeasurable worry and pain seeping into our lives, to testify to toppling ecosystems and anomie—exacerbated by unsupportable multijurisdictional regulatory regimes and broken enforcement systems that enable a lingering and escalating crisis of king—and now dog—salmon not returning home to us.
I want to say our pleas don’t meet deaf ears and that systemic misfocus and skewed emphasis on prioritizing, incentivizing, and subsidizing industrialized commercial intercept fisheries will be corrected—if under- (read mis-) regulated fisheries don’t deplete our ancestral salmon stocks beforehand.
This is a continuing emergency.
I urge you to analyze and hone your approach. I encourage this Council to really hear voices and worldviews downplayed across lifetimes, to cull startling ecosystem effects on real human life and the fish and game who sustain us—from an overemphasis on impacts cited to continue to privilege a lucrative, highly efficient, industrial intercept fishery running amok.
Please act with human dignity as you strive to meet the Council’s mandate and obligation to enact timely and effective regulatory solutions to address this escalating crisis caused by generations of unbridled regulatory misfocus.
Please choose wisely to expeditiously exercise delegated authority and control so generations coming up receive blessings of opportunities, experience, and know-how to hang and mend net, collect smokehouse wood, scrub racks and cutting tables, lug gear to drift incoming tides, to set, haul, head, gut, clean, split, salt, bury, hang, smoke, put away, bring out, share, chew, swallow, smile, and stay strong together with the gift of preparing and eating life-sustaining salmon in our evolving ways: neqerrluaq, sulunaq, kanartaq, egamaarrluk, enrualuut, tepeq, meluk…fish soup, and now—mat’um nalliini—kipper, chowder, pickled, jarred, fried, baked, caked, spread, stripped—and none substitutable with sub-par handouts.
Please note, salmon eater homelands encompass federally recognized sovereign tribal nations who have still yet not secured meaningful government-to-government consultation—56 related yet distinct tribal governments across our YK Delta alone.
Please act to meet your legal obligation and address this robustly and with urgency going forward.
We keep saying renewed regulatory focus on king salmon stocks is needed. The Salmon Bycatch Committee is an emergent forum to begin addressing this.
Our lives and the five species of salmon on which we depend are in collapse.
Time is ticking.
Please do not continue to be enemies of our future by maintaining an untenable status
To sum up, swift and deliberate regulatory action is needed to allow five species of Pacific salmon a fighting chance to return home even as it will take:
1—enacting escalated stopgap incidental catch caps with relevant defined limits, avoidance areas, and enforced closures beginning this year,
2—the restructure of impacting fisheries, while,
3—continuing to build up focused and credible sample collection, data analysis, and modeling grounded in and infused with local knowledge and science with indigenous experts front-and-center to derive the best peer-reviewed science to inform and drive responsive regulations, and,
4—If it takes driving toward a zero cap to recover affected salmon species, this difficult sacrifice must be made.
Please act so that our salmon have a fighting chance to return home to us and spawn.
In closing, we will continue to do our part to protect salmon who sustain us, who give our lives meaning, who we are obligated to protect, and which we gratefully share in our manner of living perfected here over at least the last 100 centuries. Please—don’t try ruin us in one or two.
Alice Rose Crow ~ Maaraq, Orutsararmiut Tribal Council Member