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Iliamna Lake Freshwater Seal Study: Characterizing Local Use Patterns, Local Traditional Knowledge, and Seal Population Ecology

January 01, 2011

Poster on seasonal shifts in abundance and distribution of the unique freshwater seal population inhabiting Iliamna Lake.

In response to concerns about the absence of information on the status of the seals found within Iliamna Lake, the tribal communities of Iliamna and Kokhanok, in partnership with Bristol Bay Native Association, UAA, ADFG, and NOAA have joined together to gather baseline information on seasonal shifts in abundance and distribution of the unique freshwater seal population inhabiting Iliamna Lake. The partnership also documented subsistence use patterns and local traditional knowledge from nearby communities that traditionally harvest seals from the lake. Findings from the aerial survey work is reported by our collaborator Dr. David Withrow from NOAA. Here we focus on the local traditional knowledge portion of the project.

To gather information on subsistence use and local traditional knowledge about seals within Lake Iliamna, this project recruited and trained local community members from Iliamna, Kokhanok, and Newhalen to act as local research assistants and conduct in-person interviews throughout their communities. Local research assistants first conduct subsistence household surveys in as many households within their communities as possible. The subsistence household survey was designed to:

  1. collect data on the prevalence and types of use of seal resources by community members in 2009
  2. gather preliminary local and traditional knowledge about the seals in the lake
  3. identify knowledgeable locals with a history of observing and using seals willing to participate in more detailed key respondent interviews and mapping exercises

Preliminary results from the subsistence household survey are reported below. Ultimately, data from the survey will be compared with previous household surveys conducted by ADF&G in 2004 and 2005.

Following identification of those persons within their community who have knowledge about the seals, the LRAs will conduct more in depth interviews. These local traditional knowledge surveys include sections on subsistence use, seal ecology (abundance, haulout locations, diet, behavior, and movements) and how the local communities have interacted with the seals (traditional and customary use patterns, and socioeconomic factors that may be influencing these patterns). This integration is part of an ongoing effort to understand how the variations in environmental and socio-economic conditions impact everyday life in indigenous communities in Alaska.

Authors: Helen Chythlook, Courtenay Gomez, and Jennifer Burns with assistance from Tatiana Askoak of Newhalen, Chasity Anelon of Iliamna, and Renae Zackar of Kokhanok.

Last updated by Alaska Regional Office on 05/05/2022

Harbor Seal Research Co-Management