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|Thursday, 16 October, 2014|
Fish Survey graphic. (Submitted photos)
By LORI EDMO-SUPPAH
FORT HALL — Shoshone-Bannock tribal members are encouraged to participate in a Fish Consumption Survey the Tribal Fish and Wildlife Department and Water Resources is conducting.
The survey will help the Tribes to define water quality standards and there are incentives to those who participate. The Tribes have committed to getting 600 initial surveys complete, along with 300 follow up surveys from the initial 600.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is funding the initiative. Pacific Market Research is conducting the survey with the support of the Fort Hall Business Council. Prospective participants are selected anonymously from the tribal membership rolls in a 50-mile radius of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation using guidelines from the National Cancer Institute. Participants are asked about their food consumption over two, 24-hour periods.
Fish and Wildlife Director Chad Colter said, “I cannot stress the importance enough to our membership to participate in the survey. If we do not set the baseline for consumption of fish then the state will,” adding in the agriculture culture Idaho is based upon, water quality will lose out and the state will continue to suppress Treaty rights through additional contamination of Idaho waters resulting in depletion of fish for our high end consumers.
Colter said the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality initiated a year-long statewide study to estimate fish consumption rates among Idaho residents but the EPA disapproved Idaho’s current criteria because they couldn’t determine the fish consumption rate criteria were representative of all Idahoans.
According to DEQ’s web site 36 percent of Idaho waters do not meet current water quality standards (including Blackfoot, Snake and Portneuf rivers.)
“Idaho tribes seek to set the appropriate base line of consumption by tribal members and have initiated our own Tribal member Fish Consumption Survey to ensure our high end consumers and reserved Treaty rights are protected by state and tribal criteria,” he said.
The study objectives are to develop a fish consumption rate that may be used in the development of the Shoshone-Bannock Water Quality Standards (to protect tribal members that consume fish from within the reservation. It will also develop fish consumption rate information that can be used to inform the State of Idaho’s Water Quality Standards process. Idaho is currently revising their Human Health Criteria that is partially based on the fish consumption rate of the public.
Tribal member surveyors have been hired to conduct the surveys.
According to a summary of the survey, fish are important to the Shoshone-Bannock culture and one of the major traditional foods. Various bands of the Tribes – the Agai Dika (salmon eaters) and Pengwedeka (eaters of the fish) — had names based on fish consumption.
The Tribes are currently undertaking several projects to increase the availability of fish to the tribal members and want to make sure the waters the fish live in do not contaminate the fish.
Both Colter and Candon Tanaka of the Water Resources Department emphasized the importance of participating in the survey when called because the work will help protect the tribal members in the long run.
Colter said numerous water bodies including the Portneuf River hold human health advisement warning people to restrict their consumption of fish because of pollutants, mostly mercury. “We need to turn this around and improve water quality in Idaho to protect our people.”