Monday, April 14, 2008

News from Sitka, April 14, 2008

We didn't get much herring eggs on branches this year. More than half of the branches we set were missing before the spawn was over. There seemed to be a lot of out of town boats that came here after the spawn started and left with a full deck, even before Sitka people could bring their eggs in. Our own chest freezer is 1/4 full with herring eggs. We usually have a full freezer by now, which would have lasted us through the year.
Sharing herring eggs is not a business for us. It is a way for us to thank others for helping us and a way to trade for other traditional foods from other areas. Shipping costs start at about $60 for a #50 box. Only once in a while do people have enough money to try to help us out with the freight, but there is even more cost involved in the harvest. We take off time from regular work for a week and the boat gas costs hundreds of dollars and we have to buy special equipment like rakes, clippers, rope, chainsaws, plastic totes and grappling hooks. We clean, cut and pack the eggs in ziplock bags to freeze so we can share with Elders and at community events through the year. I do believe that young people who can still physically do the work should help with the harvest or pay a share of the expense for gathering the eggs. You wouldn't expect an artist, weaver or carpenter to work for you for free. It is called respect. I was just hoping that the eggs that we gave away to Elders to say thank you are not being sold for personal profit because we paid a lot to gather and send them out to friends and family and WE certainly didn't make any money.
Maybe this is moot. We may not be able to share or trade for a while, anyway. The herring stocks are being mismanaged and everyone will probably be limited in harvesting for the next few years because of this years outragious overharvest by commercial boats. Thanks for listening. I don't mean to offend anyone but I don't know any other way to let people know about our problems. Roby Littlefield, Sitka

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