Human Ecology

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 213–223 | Cite as

The Ideology and Practice of Pacific Herring Cultivation among the Tlingit and Haida

  • Thomas F. Thornton


Pacific herring (Clupea pallasi) are a keystone species in the marine ecosystems of the Tlingit and Haida peoples of Southeast Alaska and British Columbia. Herring are not only caught and eaten and their eggs gathered, but also cultivated through respectful engagement, especially in their spring spawning cycle. This paper examines the nature of herring cultivation as a means of ensuring sustainable, reliable, and accessible supplies of these foundational forage fish, which are integral to the marine food web. Understanding the full range of cultivation techniques involves looking at both the supply and demand sides of herring production within specific anthropogenic seascapes and social-ecological systems. I argue that herring cultivation techniques helped sustain abundant and predictable returns of spawning herring in particular locales for centuries, if not millennia, and that these techniques and the relational knowledge-belief-practice complex that supports them have relevance as tools in contemporary fisheries management to enhance and restore local spawning populations within an adaptive management and ecosystem stewardship regime.


Pacific herring Conservation Mariculture Traditional ecological knowledge Northwest Coast Tlingit Haida 



Thank you to my colleagues and consultants in the “Herring Synthesis” study ( for their input to this paper; the original research was supported by a grant from the North Pacific Research Board (project #728). I would also like to thank the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, for its support. Finally, I am grateful to Robert Boyd, Doug Deur and the anonymous reviewers of this paper for their constructive comments on earlier versions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OxfordOxfordUK

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