Thursday, August 25, 2011

WW/ What does RACE have to do with it?

Attending the NOAA meeting regarding the Winnemem and Maori interest in introducing salmon into the McCloud above the dam, something NOAA is interested in also was eye-opening. Around the table sat scientists, fish biologists, people responsible for the national salmon recovery plan, people responsible for carrying out the nation's environmental preservation programs, lawyer, Winnemem leaders, Maori leaders, a New Zealand fish and wildlife person. The focus was the New Zealand Winnemem partnership to bring back the McCloud River Salmon back to the Home Waters. John Wilkie, Waitaho Maori of South Island made it clear that this was a tribe to tribe venture, that the salmon would be given from New Zealand to the Winnemem. It was the decent thing to do since the fish came from the Winnemem run hatchery to the rivers of South Island back in the late 1800's in the first place.

The concern of the American biologists, administrators, and advocate was genetics, something which made the New Zealand Fish and Wildlife expert, Dirk ________, bristle. He is a passionate voice for the salmon of New Zealand. He had spoken up at the first NOAA meeting at ceremony when the NOAA people first said that the genetics may be a problem because there were more than one introduction of salmon eggs to the rivers. He interrupted, "You're talking about statistics, aren't you? the bad runs?" The NOAA people nodded.

Then Dirk passionately spoke, "these so called good runs and bad runs -- it's all about numbers, isn't it. A certain number and it's considered a bad run. But I know this fish. The California Chinook Salmon is very strong, and with these low numbers of return, they will never give up. They are survivors. I have seen lower runs and the next year and the next year, the numbers go up by great numbers. We know that the New Zealand salmon is from here. These fish are hardy. They are the same fish as swam in the Mc Cloud in the 1800's."

At this second meeting Dirk was still willing to speak to the genetics issue which stumped the American biologists and administrators in charge of the salmon restoration projects.

I think our jaws dropped as did his when the scientists began to describe the runs -- winter, spring and fall runs -- as Races of Salmon, and saying they do not want the races to mix.

They asked Dirk what races were the salmon in New Zealand. Dirk said, we say that they are all salmon. He explained to them that the coloration which Americans use as a marker for race depends on many factors, all environmental. He explained that even in the same batch of eggs, some of the salmon will be fall and some will be winter and some will be spring. The salmon determines the run. In New Zealand and the tribes both in New Zealand and the US distinguish the runs by when they arrive to spawn. Therefore, the fish who travel farthest will be another run than the fish who spawn closer to the ocean. The US label them by when they enter the river system.

Dirk then said, Isn'the important thing that the salmon you put in the McCloud are salmon which have the ability to return to the McCloud, not what run you think they are?

Good point. Light bulbs flash in the minds.

To be fair, NOAA did not make these regulations. This is about money. Funding. There is funding for winter and spring run but not for fall for NOAA. Some other agency takes on the fall run. NOAA is stuck with these regulations. However, NOAA is also responsible to reintroduce above the dam on the McCloud and we believe, and it will be borne out that the salmon in New Zealand have the DNA, tenacity and strength to make it back. No guarantees that any salmon in the Sacramento now can do that.

New Zealand common sense and tribal knowledge eventually became the directors of the conversation. NOAA's openness and commitment to the goal was framed by the woman heading the environmental protection direction. She said that she welcomed being at the table with people who also wanted the salmon to come back. NOAA over and over again faces people who do not want the salmon and the protection laws they bring reintroduced anywhere. Bottom line, NOAA is ready to work with us, to see the proposal.

But back to that pesky little word . . . that pesky little concept Made in the USA -- RACE -- and the prohibition of mixing. It has nothing to do with species or fish because the Salmon is Salmon. This separation of runs is wholly for the purpose of accessing funds. We can see how silly miscegenation laws regarding salmon is as wrong headed as miscegenation laws regarding human beings. It is a human construct, not a natural one and it is manipulative. Interesting, aye?

Common Sense. Knowledge of Nature. And possibilities bloom.

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

from Outside the Monster's Belly

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. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.