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Missing Eulachon Get National Press Coverage

Please see updates, below. Mark Hume’s internet discussion on this issue is very interesting. The Nuxalk have posted links to these stories and additional information about the eulachon on their new website.

The Nuxalk First Nation (Coast Salish; Bella Coola, BC) has held its gathering for the eulachon. They dubbed it ‘A Feast of Shame.’ The Globe and Mail covered the event. Eulachon are small oily fish, much like herring, that are central to cultural and physical sustenance of native groups on the BC coast. It used to return to BC rivers by the millions. Then, after a big return of eulachon in 1995, the fish stopped returning. Explanations are forthcoming — overfishing by trawlers offshore is a favorite — but that doesn’t sit well with some concerned observers:

[Megan Moody, Nuxalk fisheries researcher at UBC] said the impact of the trawl fishery, climate change, increased predation and alterations to river hydrology, caused by logging, are all suspects in stock declines.

She said shrimp trawlers off the west coast of Vancouver Island are netting eulachon as bycatch, leading to estimates there are thousands of tonnes of juvenile fish at sea. But that doesn’t square with the empty rivers. “Why are they not coming back? What’s going on here? Are these estimates incorrect?” she asked.

“It’s an enigma,” said Doug Hay, a retired Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientist.

The impact of the shrimp fishery isn’t understood because eulachon, which have no commercial value, haven’t been studied enough, said Mr. Hay, who was “shocked” to hear trawling is still allowed in inlets around Bella Coola.

Mr. Hay said his best advice for restoring eulachon runs is simple: “Make sure they have good spawning habitat … make sure they have good marine habitat and … stop killing them at sea.”

Be sure to watch the video posted by The Globe and Mail. It depicts the events at Bella Coola and the importance of the eulachon to the Nuxalk and other coastal cultures.

Update: Native News North provides a link to the Globe and Mail story, too. Their link contains additional background information about the Nuxalk and the eulachon.

Update: Mark Hume, the author of the original Globe and Mail article, has answered email questions live on the Globe’s website. More than a fascinating discussion about the demise of the eulachon, the questions revealed a whole range of opinions about aboriginal people in Canada in general. Some questions and comments expressed support for the Nuxalk and their search for answers; others were pointed in their criticism of Hume’s pursuit of the story. One person wondered if the disappearance of the eulachon was the project of an assimilationist government. Another offered the (stereotypical) statement that native people have only brought this on themselves and, indeed, are simply siphoning more money from the ‘white man’ (sic). Hume’s responses to all comments were patient and thoughtful.

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  1. Emic wrote:

    Thank you for the update. I was waiting to see what would come of the conference. Seems to confirm my suspicions and the suspicions of most of the people I have spoken to about the problem.

    Wednesday, June 20, 2007 at 8:11 pm | Permalink
  2. You are welcome, Emic. Thanks for continuing to drop by.

    Wednesday, June 20, 2007 at 8:24 pm | Permalink