Lloyd was in the lower Yukon this past week, holding brief meetings with Native leaders and concerned citizens. Perhaps he and Palin's new rural advisor, John Moller felt their answers to the increasingly impoverished and desperate residents there were satisfactory, but - realistically speaking - they were not.
Saturday, the Anchorage Daily News' new rural writer, Kyle Hopkins, wrote a long article about the ADF&G commercial closures on the river, and the probable closures or limitations of most subsistence Chinook activities along the lower Yukon in June:
The state Department of Fish and Game plans to close commercial fishing on the river and bar subsistence fishing for the first pulse of Canada-bound chinook. When subsistence fishermen do get a crack at the kings, they'll have 50 percent less time to do it.
Hopkins, who has little experience in the past writing about fisheries issues (he is as close that the ADN has come so far to replacing experience but exceedingly out-of-state, foreign-owned interest and corporate-friendly, Wesley Loy), tried to write one of those measured, yet informed pieces, that attempts to tell "both sides of the story." He failed to get a good quote from John Moller, for instance, instead reiterating this point, which has been already made elsewhere:
Moller told Naneng the state couldn't legally declare a formal disaster on the Lower Yukon last year, partly because of changes the Legislature made to the law in 1999 and 2000. He said the state has done other things to help people in the region, including extending the moose-hunting season, signing people up for assistance programs and holding a job fair.
Hopkins did give the best overall update available on what is happening on this complex set of issues, though, and it is a reasonably good, informative article.
Hopkins did miss a very important point, though, that had been published hours before he finished his article, which failed to mention the serious possibility of open civil disobedience as soon as the fish show up in volume. The Tundra Drums printed the following, earlier Friday:
When the first pulse of kings come in I'm going to fish for the folks and myself just as all the families here plan to.
We had a long hard expensive winter, the extreme high cost of living bled us of our cash resources and we plan to stock up on our traditional and customary food source no matter what.
Please prepare to hear from us as we get ticketed in our attempts to feed ourselves as our ancestors did.
Right now, many families ran out of salmon (both dried and frozen) because we had no choice but to fall back on all subsistence foods all last winter as food and fuel prices climbed.
I am not afraid, I may get fined and perhaps jail.
-- Nick P. Andrew Jr., Marshall
This stance is to hammer the message that big business cannot win us over and destroy our way of life and living.
Ohogamiut Village Council
In the Tundra Drums' preface to Mr. Andrews' article, the editor noted the following:
Editor's note: In an effort to boost the numbers of king salmon returning to the Yukon River, state and federal managers have come up with a plan that drastically restricts fishing this summer.
This will affect villagers who are already reeling from a rough winter, when many said they were forced to choose between buying costly heating fuel and putting food on their table.
The state plans no commercial opener in the struggling fishery, a situation that will remove one of the few money-earning opportunities many villagers have.
Subsistence fishing will also be halved from the year before, with fishermen allowed to fish two 18-hour openers a week. Also, subsistence fishing won't be allowed during the first pulse of salmon, when about 25 percent of the run traditionally arrives.
Fishery managers say not enough salmon have reached their spawning grounds in recent years and they worry that the run could collapse.
But village fishermen feel like they're being asked to bear the brunt of the pain.
Meanwhile, the mighty Bering Sea pollock fishing industry will still be allowed to accidentally catch tens of thousands of salmon a year on the high seas, without consequence.
In 2007, the industry caught 120,000 king salmon, more than double what subsistence fishermen on the Yukon usually take.
Such a tone in an editorial comment to a letter about civil disobedience is interesting, to say the least.
Rural advisor John Moller has agreed to providing Progressive Alaska with what may end up being the most detailed interview he will have yet provided, since taking on his difficult job in the midst of a cascade of crises. I'm looking forward to helping him finish it.
The pictures accompanying this article, of lower Yukon fishermen from an earlier season, might not be possible this June. These brave men and women will have to sneak out in the dark, or in inclement weather, breaking the law, so that they can maintain their 7,000 year-old lifestyle, in the face of a ravaging of it by state-sanctioned piracy, by a fleet that didn't exist 35 years ago.
images by Oysters4me