UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Regulatory impacts on a Yup'ik fish camp in Southwest Alaska Stariwat, Jory


Yup’ik fishers on the Nushagak River of Southwest Alaska harvest salmon for both subsistence and commercial purposes, however their cultural protocol and formal resource management principles are unrecognized by the State of Alaska. Drawing from two summers of ethnographic research and experience as an Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) anthropologist, I examine one state regulation preventing drift gillnetting for subsistence purposes. The analysis reveals that the Alaska Department of Fish & Game is currently preventing cultural adaptation on the Nushagak River despite Yup’ik communities maintaining sustainable harvest levels for millennia. Changes in river conditions, namely the location of sandbars and channels, in addition to warming water temperatures, necessitate the application of the traditional harvest method, drift gillnetting, to meet the harvest goals of Yup’ik fishers at the Lewis Point fish camp on the Nushagak River. The Alaska Board of Fisheries has maintained that drifting only be employed in the commercial fishery, not the subsistence fishery, despite policy dictating a subsistence priority over other consumptive uses. While failing to meet the subsistence priority codified in its own policy, the State of Alaska also fails to provide a meaningful role to the tribes in the decision-making domain of resource management. Yup’ik fishing is guided by a cultural ethos known as yuuyaraq, roughly translated to “the real way of life,” which provides a formal management institution that maintains continuity with the past while providing harvest protocol and principles for the present. The incorporation of Yup’ik intellectual traditions and cultural principles is necessary to provide the tribe a “meaningful role” in the natural resource management of Alaska.

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