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Destruction of Salmon – Threat to Indigenous Peoples of the North

9 May 2021 Topics:

One of the most striking speeches of the recently concluded 20th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was the address delivered by the Vice President of the Far Eastern Federal District chapter of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation. Liubov Odzyal spoke on the challenges many northern Indigenous Peoples are facing globally nowadays, including those in Kamchatka. The issue is the large-scale destruction of salmon, the foundation of Indigenous Peoples’ wellbeing. «Kamchatka.Live» is publishing the full text of Liubov Odzyal’s address at the 20th Session of the UN Permanent Forum below:

Greetings to the Permanent Forum participants!

I would like to draw your attention to the problem of Indigenous Peoples and salmon. Salmon is of utmost importance to many Indigenous Peoples of Japan, the United States, Canada, Russia, and even China; it is the foundation of their cultures and diet.  

Unfortunately, salmon is at the brink of extinction in many traditional aboriginal homelands due to poor commercial fisheries management, global climate change processes, dams, human-induced impacts, and logging.  

We, as Indigenous Peoples, desire this fish to thrive, to return back for spawning, so that we would never have to show salmon as museum artifacts. To help achieve this goal, our Khabarovsk regional organization located on the Amur River is doing everything that we can: we ourselves monitor escapement of salmon to spawning grounds, we estimate spawner abundance, engage in communications with the commercial fishing industry, government authorities and scientific institutions. The main obstacle is that in every country, business entities receive larger recognition to the detriment of Indigenous Peoples’ interests: commercial fisheries harvest so much that nothing is left to the mother nature and the local indigenous tribes. To make matters worse, the global ocean temperatures rise, and the marine salmon rearing conditions decline. We cannot continue our fight alone, however, as there is a limit to our capabilities. Therefore, I am here today to call on the Indigenous Peoples to combine our efforts for the sake of salmon rescue. We need to share information and our experiences, to come together, pose questions and strive to find solutions to this problem!

Unfortunately, the issue receives nearly no attention at the international level. As an example, the 2021 Declaration on Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture was adopted in February of 2021 during the 34th Session of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Committee on Fisheries (COFI), where, to my great disappointment, I found not a single mention of Indigenous Peoples and their rights. Meanwhile, to our people, fish is life itself, the basis of our existence, which is why we are described as ichthyophages. When will the world finally realize that fish means not only commercial interests, and that loss of salmon would be a tragedy to Indigenous Peoples?      

I would like to call on the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) to begin collaborating with Indigenous Peoples. I hope that my address today helps set the wheels in motion even to a small degree!  

Thank you for your attention!

Liubov Odzyal

Source: Kamchatka Live Translation by Victoria Chilcote

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