NEWS_SHI to host panel discussion, screening of new film on the state of Alaska herring fishery

NEWS_SHI to host panel discussion, screening of new film on the state of Alaska herring fishery

Posted By:
Kathy Dye
Kathy Dye
Published On: December 22nd, 2020

Free event open to the public, everyone welcome

March 9, 2020

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will host a free, public screening of its new video Gáax’w ka Haaw (Herring Eggs and Branches), followed by a panel discussion on the importance of the herring roe fishery to subsistence users and wildlife and the state of stocks today.

Since time immemorial, the people of Southeast Alaska have harvested herring eggs by placing hemlock branches in herring spawn. But today, this vital, traditional food is endangered by commercial fishing pressure.

The film serves as both a vignette of the 2019 spring harvest efforts and a portrayal of the tension the Indigenous people of Sitka, Alaska and beyond are feeling as their traditional food faces an uncertain future, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“Through the film, we follow subsistence roe harvesters often searching in vain for herring eggs in Sitka Sound, where they once abounded. We in the Native community have said for many years that our herring runs are in trouble, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears, even as we’ve witnessed once-strong herring runs disappear,” said Worl.

Sitka Sound is the last stronghold in the region for this keystone species and foundation forage fish for salmon, sea mammals and other fish and wildlife in the marine food web.

The showing will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Mike Miller, council member of Sitka Tribe of Alaska, which has filed a lawsuit against the state of Alaska for mismanagement of the herring fishery, and Thomas Thornton, author of SHI’s 2019 book The Distribution of Subsistence Herring Eggs from Sitka Sound, Alaska, which recommended major changes to the way the state manages the sac roe herring fishery in Sitka Sound and predicted dire outcomes for the ancient subsistence herring roe fishery located there, which supports people across the state and Pacific Northwest, if things do not change.

The screening is scheduled at noon on Friday, March 13, at Sealaska Heritage, which is located at 105 S. Seward Street in Juneau. The event will be videotaped and posted online on SHI’s YouTube. Everyone is welcome.

The 35-minute program was made in collaboration with filmmaker Ellie Schmidt.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Kathy Dye, SHI Media Specialist, 907.321.4636,

Caption: Photo of herring roe courtesy of Bethany Goodrich. For a high-resolution version, contact

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