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The Practice of Reefnetting on Lummi Island: A Traditional Method of Fishing for Salmon

“The Practice of Reefnetting on Lummi Island: A Traditional Method of Fishing for Salmon” explores the centuries-old tradition of reefnetting, a method of fishing for salmon on Lummi Island. This article highlights the historical background of reefnetting, which was temporarily replaced by fish traps built by non-natives before making a comeback in 1935. Modern-day reefnetting incorporates advanced equipment and techniques, such as stable barges, artificial reefs, and solar-powered panels. The practice allows for a special bond between the captain and crew and offers a serene fishing experience. Furthermore, reefnetting provides a sustainable and high-quality product of live-bled salmon. The survival of reefnetting relies on public support and market demand, and efforts are being made to raise awareness about the fragility of the Salish Sea ecosystem and the importance of preserving the salmon population. Lummi Island Wild Co-op stands as a pioneering force in this industry, being the world’s only solar-powered commercial fishery.

History of Reefnetting on Lummi Island

Reefnetting is a fishing technique that has deep roots in the Lummi Island community, dating back centuries. The Lummi tribe, the original inhabitants of the area, practiced reefnetting as a means of sustainably harvesting salmon. This traditional method involved the use of two canoes and a net between them to trap salmon as they swam on the incoming tide.

However, in the early 1900s, non-native fishermen replaced reefnetting with fish traps. These traps were built along the shores of Lummi Island and allowed for a more passive approach to fishing. The Lummi tribe temporarily lost their traditional fishing method during this time.

It was not until 1935, when the fish traps were outlawed, that reefnetting made a comeback on Lummi Island. Non-Lummi fishermen recognized the value of this traditional practice and began practicing reefnetting themselves. This resurgence marked a renewed appreciation for the sustainable and effective nature of the technique.

Reefnetting Technique and Equipment

The technique of reefnetting involves the strategic placement of two canoes with a net between them. This allows the fishermen to capture salmon as they migrate on the incoming tide. The canoes are carefully positioned in shallow waters, and the net is set up in a way that allows the salmon to be gently guided towards the capture zone.

Over time, reefnetting techniques and equipment have evolved to become more advanced and efficient. Modern reefnetters now utilize stable barges, artificial reefs, and specialized equipment such as solar-powered panels, sonar technology, underwater cameras, and mechanical winches. These advancements have contributed to the sustainability and effectiveness of reefnetting, ensuring that this traditional practice can continue to thrive in the present day.

The Zen of Reefnetting

Reefnetting is more than just a fishing technique; it is a quiet and intuitive practice that fosters a unique connection between the captain and crew. As the canoes are carefully positioned and the net is set, there is a sense of tranquility that permeates the air. The captain and crew must work in harmony to ensure a successful catch. This sense of unity and focus has often been described as the “Zen of fishing.”

The Zen of reefnetting goes beyond the act of fishing itself. It is a chance to immerse oneself in nature, to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding environment, and to experience a deep connection with the sea. This unique aspect of reefnetting is cherished by those who practice it, and it adds an extra layer of significance to this centuries-old tradition.

High-Quality and Sustainable Product

Reefnetting not only offers a unique fishing experience but also produces a high-quality and sustainable product. One of the techniques employed by reefnetters is live-bleeding the caught salmon. Live-bleeding involves immediately bleeding the fish upon capture, resulting in a higher quality and longer-lasting product.

This technique minimizes stress on the fish, which in turn improves the taste and texture of the salmon. Additionally, by bleeding the fish, the build-up of lactic acid is reduced, ensuring that the fish stays fresh for an extended period.

The sustainability aspect of reefnetting cannot be overstated. The method is designed to target specific salmon species while allowing non-target species to swim freely and unharmed. This selectivity helps preserve the delicate balance of the ecosystem, ensuring the continued abundance of salmon in the Salish Sea.

Lummi Island Wild Co-op

To ensure that the reefnet-caught fish reach the market, the Lummi Island community established the Lummi Island Wild Co-op. The co-op takes on the responsibility of getting the fish to market, ensuring that the catch from reefnetting is shared with a wider audience.

The Lummi Island Wild Co-op is not just any commercial fishery; it is the only solar-powered commercial fishery in the world. This distinction highlights the commitment of the Lummi Island community to sustainable practices and reducing their carbon footprint. By utilizing solar power, the co-op demonstrates its dedication to preserving the environment while providing a high-quality product to consumers.

Importance of Public Support

Public support is essential for the survival and success of reefnetting as a viable commercial fishery. Without a demand for reefnetted salmon, this traditional practice would struggle to continue. Educating the public about reefnetting, its history, and its sustainable nature is crucial in garnering this support.

In addition to raising awareness about the value of reefnetted salmon, educating the public about the fragility of the Salish Sea ecosystem is paramount. By understanding the interconnected nature of the ecosystem and the vital role that salmon play within it, individuals can better appreciate the importance of preserving both the salmon and the ecosystem that supports them.

Educating People about the Salish Sea

Efforts are underway to educate people about the fragility of the Salish Sea and the necessity of preserving the salmon and the ecosystem it supports. By raising awareness about the various threats facing the area, such as pollution and habitat destruction, individuals can make informed decisions and take action to protect this vital ecosystem.

Preserving the salmon population is not only beneficial for the Lummi Island community but also for the broader community who rely on the Salish Sea for its ecological, cultural, and economic value. By supporting reefnetting and sustainable fishing practices, individuals can contribute to the long-term health of this unique and delicate ecosystem.

In conclusion, reefnetting on Lummi Island is not just a fishing technique; it is a centuries-old tradition deeply rooted in the culture and history of the Lummi tribe. As the practice temporarily gave way to fish traps and later made a remarkable comeback, reefnetting has proven its resilience and sustainability as a fishing method. From its humble beginnings with two canoes and a net to the advanced equipment and techniques utilized today, reefnetting continues to be a source of pride and connection to nature for the Lummi Island community. Through public support and market demand, reefnetting can thrive as a high-quality and sustainable fishing practice, ensuring the preservation of both salmon and the fragile ecosystem of the Salish Sea.

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