HSC : February 2024 HIA hires Fisheries Biologist, Community Surveys

In attendance: Ian Johnson, Elizabeth Figus, Erica Drahozal, Jennifer Nu, Neal Schoenfelder, Jackson Combs, Makayla, Jim Erickson, Jeremy Johnson

Meeting Goal: The goal of this meeting was to introduce Jackson Combs as the new Subsistence Fisheries Biologist and present the Community Projects survey based on the work of the HSC. Jackson gave a short informal presentation about himself and the goals of the Tribal Fisheries Biologist position.

Jackson:I’ve lived in Hoonah for 11 years. Grew up in Oregon and started crabbing in college and spent more than 20 years participating in multiple fisheries from California to Pribilof Islands. I’ve always been interested in fisheries management. With volatility in the industry and the time committed to being offshore, was looking for a change of pace and was excited for the opportunity to join the Environmental team. This last month on the job I’ve been focusing on networking and learning the subsistence side of fisheries to better advocate for the community.

He explained that subsistence management is broken into a few functions by government departments and outlined the role of these departments including the U.S Fish & Wildlife and the U.S Forest Service. His position with HIA acts as a liaison between the community and all of these entities.

The Southeast Regional Advisory Council meets in March. Hoonah has their own member on the board, Frank Wright Jr. HIA is looking to bring people from Hoonah to these meetings to listen in, or even make statements or proposals. There is a Federal Subsistence Board meeting in April. Currently open proposal windows, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game: Board of Fish has a meeting soon as well.

Jackson recently attended the North Pacific Fisheries Marine Council meeting. Trawl bycatch is a major issue that potentially impacts fisheries in Hoonah and Southeast. Will be posting his response to blog shortly. Another NPFMC meeting will be occurring in April.

“The position has a large focus on increasing harvest reporting and filling in data gaps. Not reporting can hurt Hoonah users. Hoonah has traditionally used multiple systems for harvest, but that’s not accurately reflected in reporting. Especially at Neva Lake. We don’t have any current stock assessment data at Hoktaheen. No boots on ground observations since 2002. Everything after that has been managed through modeling. How does that accurately account for any more recent changes? Or take into account our best interests? We are looking at things like increasing bag limits and improving access and priority for subsistence users, but it can only be done with current accurate information.”

“Owning a large fishing boat also presents some new opportunities. We’ll be able to better access areas to monitor things like competition with self guided charter vessels, etc. I’m thinking of acting as a mobile platform at Hoktaheen while we eventually setup a fish weir further up the creek, similar to what we have at Neva. Would be able to offer community sockeye harvesters fresh ice and maybe even transport their fish back to Hoonah in exchange for their observations, as well as just offer a fresh cup of coffee.”

Jennifer Nu asks: “With the data gaps. Building trust. how do you do that? Have you talked to people about why they choose not to report? Who are you collected for? F&G ? or FWS? How do we ensure data won’t be against people?”

Jackson: “Our survey just went out and had questions about that on there to start conversations. We also see that reaction in commercial fishing. It’s important to demonstrate that we’re not approaching anything from an ‘increase regulation’ standpoint. Instead we ask questions and collect data that can help us create opportunity for the community.”

Ian Johnson adds that (“we are able to collect and process the data at HIA, which gives us some control over the narrative and the usage (of said data). We’re collecting for ourselves first.“).

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Ian Johnson briefly goes over the finalized Community Projects surveys developed by the HSC.

Jennifer Nu talks about Tribes extension newsletter – fish waste webinar, community orchard food. Calypso farm is doing a training for rural growers. This is an ongoing program that has helped a lot of folks. Has a topic on traditional plants. Connecting them with Farmers market development in Hoonah.

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