Summer work yields new insights into Hoonah Coho rivers

This summer the crew members of the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership had an important mission in mind : find undocumented salmon streams across the Hoonah landscape. After walking streams through brush, over logs, past bears, and through young-and-old-growth they founds 13.2 miles of streams with coho where they had not been documented before. No small feat! Let’s dive into why we are doing the work and why it matters with a short video:

The Anadromous Waters Catalog, or AWC as it’s known by those who use it, documents rivers across Alaska that have “anadromous fish” in them – those are fish that live in the ocean and return to the river to spawn. By documenting where salmon, steelhead, and trout are, land managers like the USFS, Native corporations, and State of Alaska can make decisions on what is allowable around a stream. For instance how big a culvert needs to be and buffers for cutting. In 2016, early in the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership we found out through predicting with LiDAR (high accuracy mapping data), that the AWC may be only about 25% correct in the Hoonah area. In 2022, we set out to address that concern.

This map shows the progress of the 2022 field season. Each green triangle and red circle is where crews found a coho salmon in a stream that is not currently in the AWC. You can see we focused on Spasski Value but also in Hippoback and Whitestone Harbor. There are a lot of yellow lines left to be surveyed in 2023!
Crew member work together with the 2023 Sealaska Intern to complete coho surveys in streams where they aren’t currently documented

The importance of our work is in terms of getting these anadromous streams mapped is mainly protection

Phillip Sharclane Jr., HNFP Crew Lead

Documenting fish streams takes a lot of work! Crew members used a tool called an electro-shocker to temporarily stun fish, scoop them up, identify them, and return them to the river. However, doing the work is rewarding. It will helpu us make better decisions in the future on how to protect salmon and manage streams. Plugging data gaps using local workers is a win/win because it gives us a voice in local management and reduces the cost of mobilizing a crew from out of town to do the work. This work will be continuing in 2023. Interested in participating – get ahold of Hoonah Indian Association and apply today! Pay starting at $20/hour with a fulltime schedule from May – October.

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