6.3.5 Togiak

6.3.5 Togiak

A. Togiak Sample Profile

In Togiak interviews were conducted from December 2008 to March 2009. The sample consisted of 57% males, with a relatively even spread across age groups (see Table 2). A majority were long-time residents, with 73% having lived in the area for more than 30 years (see Table 16). Many years of harvesting experience were represented (see Table 17). A majority (77%) had over two decades of experience harvesting in the area. At the time of the interview 78% reported being unemployed.

Table 16. Years of residence in the community (n=69)

 Length of Time    Frequency    Percent  
 0-10 years  6  8%
 11-20 years  4  6%
 21-30 years  9  13%
 More than 30 years  50  73%
 Total    69  

 

Table 17. Years hunted/fished in the area (n=69)

 Length of Time    Frequency    Percent  
 0-10 years  8  12%
 11-20 years  8  12%
 21-30 years  17  25%
 More than 30 years  36  52%
 Total    69  

B. Observed Changes in Environmental Conditions (n=69)

When asked about the location of the previous harvest trip, 32% reported changes at that location. Figure 24 displays answers to more specific questions about changes in environmental conditions. Frequently observed changes included a change in snow condition (73%), freeze-up time (62%), air temperature (61%), and storms (61%).

Figure 24. Percent of Togiak respondents who have observed some change in environmental conditions within the previous 10 to 25 years (n=69)

Observed changes in snow conditions included less snow (38%) and more snow (12%). Although there is lack of consensus as to how snow conditions are changing, half of those who observed more snow made it clear that they were talking about this year in comparison to prior years. Thus, they might agree with the more common observation of less snow as a general trend. The late arrival of snowfall was observed by 7%.

  • “Long ago there was lots of snow, and when it got cold it stayed cold. We used to dig up doors below. Our homes used to be covered and it was good insulation for our home. Now winters come late.”
  • “Long time ago there used to be lots of snow and blizzards.”

Many agreed that freeze-up time was later (25%), while only 7% reported it was earlier. Greater variation in the timing of freeze-up was observed by 16% of respondents.

  • “Freeze up of the bay and river took longer than expected. And it has even rained in December, making it harder to travel with snow machine.”
  • “Freezes-up very early some years, very late the next year. Freeze up is not constant anymore.”

Observed changes in air temperature included unusual fluctuation in air temperature (35%), warmer air temperature (33%), and a few reported that the air temperature was cooler (15%).

  • “Our weather will be zero one day and then we’ll wake up to rain the next.”

Observed changes in storm patterns included increased strength and longer storms (22%), while 13% noticed an increase in the frequency of storms.

  • “60 mile-65 mile per hour winds during storms. This is recent – within the last 10 years.”
  • “Big storms with high winds. This is very different for January.”

Other observed changes included lower water levels in the Togiak River (9%), fish changing locations (7%), erosion and water pollution. Four respondents said that the Earth appears to have tilted, based on an unusual position of the stars or unexpected location of sunrise/ sunset. Two individuals reported catching unusual fish.

  • “Second Creek changed; lots of mud, the ocean shores are flat and shallow. When I stayed down by the ocean line (beach) the land is sinking down.”
  • “The water is dirty because of the Togiak River Lodge – tourism. We have to travel further up for cleaner water.”
  • “I think it has to do with global warming. Different fish caught like white fish closer by the mouth of the river.”

Data related to the timing of the fish run in Togiak was not used because of confusion about the meaning of the term ‘run’, perhaps due to the misunderstanding of the English word.

C. Abundance and Quality of Subsistence Resource (n=70)

A majority (88%) of harvest events consisted of trout and smelt (see Table 18). Seals, pike, salmon and common eider were also harvested by respondents. In responses to open-ended questions, 10% believed there were less fish or animals than there used to be.

  • “There isn’t much fish anymore. It’s not like it was a long time ago. Now some people even catch baby trout.”
  •  “We’re not catching as much smelt”

Table 18. Species of fish/marine mammal harvested (n=70)

 Species    Frequency    Percent  
 Salmon  2  2%
 Trout  38  54%
 Smelt  24  34%
 Pike  2  3%
 Seals  3  4%
 Total    70    

Only 6% of harvests yielded animals with visible signs of disease. The four cases in which harvesters reported ill fish included: smelt with “lumps” and other deformities, including a “crooked mouth”, a trout with “green colored meat”, and bites from marine mammals. White spots were found, in singular instances, on a trout and a Silver salmon.

Locations of the previous harvest were described as reliable by 99% of respondents, although 89% report having no idea of what the next harvest might yield.