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COMMUNITY

For thousands of years, Tlingit and Haida communities have thrived in Southeast Alaska by harvesting salmon, halibut, shellfish, herring, groundfish, and other resources from the sea. Traditional native knowledge, social customs, and arts all reflect an ancient, intimate connection to the marine environment.

When people of European and other origins came to the Panhandle, fishing again was at the core of community life. Today every town has one or more harbors—veritable forests of trolling poles, docks where seine fishermen and gillnetters mend their nets, where longliners tie up after delivering their catch, and where charter boat fishermen come to chase their dreams.

Fishing is the heart of life in most Southeast Alaska towns. Kids with spinning rods crowd along the riverbanks in summer. People with skiffs of every size and description head out after salmon, halibut, rockfish, crab, and shrimp. Subsistence fishing is much more than recreation, it’s about staple foods with serious cash-equivalent value for local families.

The 55,000 residents of Southeast Alaska live in a unique congeries of villages, towns, and cities. Hugging the coastline, backed by sheer mountains, and often isolated on islands, most of these communities are accessible only by plane or ferry. The names of these fishing communities embody the diversity and character of its people: Hoonah, Angoon, Sitka, Kake, Port Alexander, Juneau, Haines, Port Protection, Petersburg, Ketchikan, Tenakee Springs, Klawock and Wrangell. 

Every Panhandle community is linked to the others by the tides that flow between them, by the fish that pass their shores, and by their shared harvesting of the sea. This is the “blue economy”—the SEABANK—that underwrites and sustains Southeast Alaska’s communities and ways of life. 

SeaBank will celebrate and document the cultural importance of this blue economy by sharing stories, photos, and traditional knowledge from these communities. 

 

Community Social Vulnerability:

 Image courtesy of NOAA

Image courtesy of NOAA

NOAA has mapped over 3,800 communities in order to display well-being and dependance on commercial and recreational fishing. In order to do this NOAA used social indicators to rank individual community's social vulnerability. "Indicators are comprised of one variable or several components combined into an index. They are used to describe and evaluate community well-being in terms of social, economic, and psychological welfare."

There are three main indicators that NOAA used to rank different communities. These indices include:

  1. Social vulnerability indices: "represent social factors that can shape either an individual or community’s ability to adapt to change. These factors exist within all communities regardless of the importance of fishing."
  2. Gentrification pressure indicies: "characterize those factors that, over time may indicate a threat to the viability of a commercial or recreational working waterfront, including infrastructure."
  3. Fishing engagement/reliance indices: "portray the importance or level of dependence of commercial or recreational fishing to coastal communities."

For more information on NOAA's indices and definitions click here.

NOAA's map has been updated to include all communities in coastal counties in the United States. To search for your community or any other community in the U.S. click here.

 

Southeast Alaska Subsistence Harvest by Community

 Image courtesy of Jessica Menges

Image courtesy of Jessica Menges

Interested in how much fish your community catches each year for subsistence? ADF&G breaks subsistence catch down by species and presents numerous variables in a downloadable spreadsheet. Click here to access the drop down menu to select your community.

 

Southeast Alaska Food System Assessment

 Image courtesy of Jessica Menges

Image courtesy of Jessica Menges

Many Alaskans are reliant on their ability to harvest their own food. From deer hunting to fishing and to berry picking Alaskans are resourceful in finding wild products with which to fill their freezers.

"The purpose of this research is to identify existing food system challenges in order to target areas of change and actions that can be taken to promote self-sufficient communities and a more resilient food system."

This research project was supported by the People and Place Program, Southeast Conference, Sheinberg Associates and University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

Click here to read the full report.


Images courtesy of Alyssa Russell & Jessica Menges