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Subsistence partnership monitors sockeye count

ALASKA—For millennia, the subsistence harvest of salmon has been central to the culture and economy of Southeast Alaska’s people. It takes careful and informed management of salmon stocks to ensure the needs of local residents are met while preserving the productivity of the resource for future generations. To meet this challenge, the Forest Service is working with local tribal organizations and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on a number of salmon stock assessment projects throughout Tongass National Forest. These projects monitor the escapement, productivity and harvest of salmon stocks that are crucial to meeting the subsistence needs of Southeast Alaska residents. To date, seven tribal organizations have been partners in these projects.

In one such partnership, employees of the Angoon Community Association have been working with Forest Service biologists on a project counting sockeye salmon returning to Sitkoh Lake, near the village of Angoon. Using a solar-powered video camera system and a wireless link to Angoon, the crew records video of fish entering the lake, providing real-time counts of the number of spawning salmon. The underwater video, as well as views of the project site, are accessible over the internet, making it possible to monitor the project remotely and eliminating the need for a costly field camp. ACA crew members use skills in solar power, electronics, and computer networking to keep things running.

“I depend on the Angoon crew for more than just the field work,” said Jake Musslewhite, biologist. “They also provide me with their insider information on local subsistence issues, which is incredibly valuable. And they know they can get the same thing from me when it comes to regulatory and management issues. Plus, when you’re working side by side at the lake all day, swatting bugs and watching for brown bears, you can’t help but feel like you’re all in this together.”

Photo: Williams Jr., Williams Sr. and Strahle erect several solar panels at lakeside.
Angoon Community Association employees Roger Williams Jr. (foreground) and Roger Williams Sr. (back), along with Alaska Department of Fish and Game intern Trace Strahle (middle) assemble a solar panel array at Sitkoh Lake in Angoon, Alaska. The array is used to power electronics for a remotely monitored salmon-counting weir. Forest Service photo.