Why do we value some fish more than others? It’s time to reconsider the “rough” fish.


Indigenous communities and communities of color often have very different views on the value of fish. “The concept of trash fish does not exist in any Indigenous language that I know of,” Miller said. Preferences around which native fish to eat vary across communities as well as across generations, with walleye, northern pike and muskellunge forming the backbone of some Ojibwa tribal diets, said Charles Rasmussen, director of communications for the Indian Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Commission. Additionally, he wrote in an email: “Members of the Ojibwe community belong to clans, which are associated with specific roles and responsibilities. Two clans, which could be considered sub-clans of the Fish Clan, include the Sucker Clan and the Bullhead Clan,” named after two types of fish considered rough by non-native managers. “It speaks to the respect these fish have in traditional culture, beyond discussions of preferred food fish.” This respect goes even further, with tiny baitfish like minnows recognized as an important food for fish that humans eat, “and this life cycle is well recognized and valued from a healthy ecosystem perspective.” , Rasmussen said.

The study provides several examples of the importance of “raw fish” to Aboriginal communities. For example, Brooks Bighorn, a member of the Flambeau Lake Band of Chippewa Indians of Lake Superior, reported to a study author that smelts, tullibees, suckers, and redhorses “remain prominent in the community. He estimated that two dozen or more people in the community smoke fish, including these species. Last winter, anglers went out on frozen lakes and fished for tulips, using both suction cups and a swimming lure as bait. When they got around 100, they would take them home and smoke them, give them to relatives or friends, or sell them for “$5 a pop,” Brooks reported. Yet these fish have received little management attention, even though many are immediately threatened by invasive species, climate change and land use changes.

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