Importance of Subsistence to Alaskan Residents
Meredith MarchioniSubsistence Resource SpecialistDivision of SubsistenceAlaska Department of Fish and Game
DIVISION OF SUBSISTENCE1Thank you for having me here to talk today. My name is Meredith Marchioni and I am a subsistence resource specialist for the Division of Subsistence with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. I was asked to talk about the importance of subsistence in Alaska. I will first talk to you about what the Division of Subsistence is and what I do as a subsistence resource specialist, and then I will illustrate the economic, nutritional, and sociocultural importance of subsistence to Alaskan residents. Division of SubsistenceIn 1978 the State of Alaska enacted the Alaska Subsistence Law recognizing the customary and traditional uses of resources.
The Division of Subsistence was established to scientifically quantify harvests of wild resources by rural residents to determine the Amount Necessary for Subsistence (ANS) for each population or stock.
Since its inception, over the past 30 years, the Divisions small staff has conducted research in 271 rural communities in Alaska.
2Just a brief overview of the Division of Subsistence. We are a small research based division of the Department of Fish and Game formed in 1978 after the State of Alaska enacted the Alaska Subsistence Law recognizing the customary and traditional use of resources. The Division of Subsistence scientifically quantifies harvests of wild resources by rural residents to determine the Amount Necessary for Subsistence (ANS) for each population or stock. Since its inception, over the past 30 years, the Divisions small staff of social scientists has worked in 220 rural communities throughout Alaska. As part of its Core Services the Division provides information to the Alaska Boards of Fisheries and Game on the customary and traditional use of resources by Alaskans and provides harvest data to determine the amount necessary for subsistence. Seasonality of fishing, hunting, and gatheringMethods of harvesting and processingSharing of wild foodsAreas of harvest and useCultural, social, and economic values Trends in resource use patternsResource issues that need resolution
Research Foci3Our Division focuses on a wide variety of research needs. The Divisions team of social scientists, mainly anthropologists, provide data on seasonality of fishing, hunting, and gathering, methods of harvesting and processing, sharing of wild foods, areas of harvest and use through mapping, cultural, social, and economic values related to subsistence activities, trends in resource use patterns, and resource issues that need resolution.
When it becomes evident that research needs to be done in a particular area or community because of either management or community concerns over resource health or subsistence opportunities, the Division of Subsistence will seek funding to address the communitys needs.Community Scoping Meeting
Community scoping meeting in Togiak, Bristol BayPrior to conducting any research in a community, a community scoping meeting is held. During the community meeting, the proposed research is presented to community members and the local government for approval. Once approval is obtained, research will begin. Train Local Research Assistants
Local researcher training in Noatak, Northwest AlaskaIn an effort to engage the local community in our work, the Division of Subsistence trains and employs local researchers to conduct harvest surveys and help with interviews and participant observation. Local research assistants are also very helpful in communicating to research staff the current dynamic of every household they enter. Subsistence is so very important to all communities in rural Alaska, and so interwoven with family memories and structures that going into a household and asking questions about subsistence if someone in the household has recently moved away or passed on could be hurtful to the participant. Local research assistants are able to tell us about households that will make certain we are as sensitive to the households current situation as we can be.Research Methods:Subsistence Harvest Surveys and Mapping
A harvest survey Chignik Lake.Subsistence harvest surveys are conducted throughout the state in an effort to document the importance of subsistence to Alaskan communities. Comprehensive harvest surveys ask residents about every single wild resource they harvest and where, and if they either received or gave away a resource. The data these surveys produce creates an incredible illustration of how much rural Alaskan residents rely on subsistence foods as well as how important sharing is for acquiring the needed amount of food. Research Methods: Participant Observation
Participating in subsistence salmon fisheries on the Alaska Peninsula and in southeast Alaska.Participant Observation is a method used to document peoples contemporary subsistence practices. By both participating and observing, anthropologists are able to best understand subsistence practices. Only observing or only participating would leave the researcher without a holistic perspective of an activity and all that goes into it. I will often go fishing with people and process fish with them to achieve the best understanding of what they have to do in order to get their food. Research Methods: Key Respondent Interviews
Interviewing an elder in Nondalton, Bristol BayKey respondent interviews are conducted with high subsistence harvesters and elders within a particular community. Key respondent interviews ask respondents about how they learned their subsistence practices, who taught them, how their community has changed since they were a child, how the resources and the environment have changed, where they used to harvest their subsistence versus where they do now, and many other open ended questions about these knowledgeable individuals perceptions. 2012 Wild Resource Harvest Update for Alaska
I will now display some graphs and charts published from our data in 2010 that will show how our data is used to display the importance of subsistence to Alaskan residents.
The areas highlighted in green are the only areas within the state which are deemed non subsistence. Most of these areas are however open to personal use. The rest of the state is open to subsistence activities. 10
This graph shows the estimated wild food harvests in Alaska by area in 2012. The numbers represent pounds usable weight per person per year. As you can see, Alaskas rural residents rely heavily on subsistence foods in order to live where they do and therefore harvest much more for subsistence than the states more urban centers whose residents have access to more reasonably priced alternatives and also have primarily cash based economies. Nutritional value of fish and wildlife harvests
This graph displays the nutritional value of subsistence resources for Alaskan residents.
Subsistence foods are supplying well over 100 percent of the protein requirements for much of rural Alaskan communities.
They are also supplying well over 100 percent of the caloric requirements.
This pie chart shows the very small percentage of resources that are being harvested for subsistence and personal use.
Commercial fishing takes 98.3 percent of all harvested resources in Alaska.
Subsistence and personal use take 1.1 percent and sport harvest takes .6 percent.
This pie chart breaks down the total subsistence take by resource type.
As you can see, the largest percentage of rural Alaskan residents subsistence harvest is comprised of salmon.
The next largest is large land mammals and other fish (including halibut, cod, etc.) are the third largest.
This graph breaks the subsistence harvest down by location. Obviously the arctic is harvesting the most marine mammals and the least amount of salmon. Kodiak, being that it is primarily made of kodiak city is harvesting the least amount of resources of any subsistence area because the majority of the population is in Kodiak city which is based primarily on a money economy and has access to food stores. Western Alaska is harvesting the most resources as these areas have the most available resources and are often incredibly isolated communities with fewer residents.Subsistence Lifestyle and Local Ecological Knowledge
The graphs I just presented give you a clear numeric picture of how important subsistence is to the people of Alaska. I do not have to tell the people in this room that subsistence is so much more to the people of Alaska then just their food source. It is a way of life that connects people to their environment, their resources, their families, their communities, their cultures and their beliefs and traditions. Out of this remarkably intertwined relationship between subsistence users and the environment is some of the most detailed knowledge about natural resources and how resources and the environment are changing. 16Perceived causes for the decline in the chilkat chinook salmon populationFluctuations in climate and weatherIncreased pressure from fisheriesEnvironmental disturbances from human impacts (e.g. boat traffic, pollution, ecotourism, road maintenance, etc.)Hatchery fish
Across the state of Alaska anthropologists are gathering ecological knowledge held by all resource users and subsistence users alone contribute a particularly important body of knowledge. I am currently finishing up research in the Chilkat River Valley of Southeast, Alaska where I have been collecting ecological knowledge regarding the Chilkat River chinook salmon run held by subsistence, commercial and sport fishers who have fished the area for over a decade.