• GICHIGAMI/FISH CONTAMINATION • perfectly still, hanging on the words of these Ogichidaag, even though some of them have heard this story many times before. For Schlender, the time he spent with youth and other harvesters at camp meant a great deal to him. “I was honored to be able to share harvest knowledge with our tribal youth and I feel inspired to see their excitement to learn about our culture and practices. I am proud to be from Lac Courte Oreilles and so an oppor- tunity to showcase our resources and the expertise of our harvesters is a prideful moment for me and our community.” Campers engaged in many other activities throughout the weekend, including venison stew canning, beading, and building a sweat lodge. They were also able to take part in a new experience this year: cooking outdoors using a Bootagan—a hollowed out yellow birch log used to grind rice, corn, and similar foods. To grind corn, campers put kernels inside the log and then used a long, wooden cylindrical- shaped hammer to smash it into meal. They combined the resulting cornmeal with boiling water, blueberries, and maple syrup for a hearty snack. Saturday night was a special night. Campers—joined by family and com- munity members—came together for a big beautiful winter feast, cultural stories told by Mike Sullivan, and a cleansing sweat in the lodge they had helped to build. Renewed in spirit, the camp family celebrated and strengthened the ties that have bound the Ojibwe season-to-season, generation-to-generation. Ashland, Wis.—Fisheries professionals from the United States and Canada met January 9-11 to discuss topics relating to fisheries research and management on Lake Superior. The group consists of representatives from various state, tribal, federal, and provincial agencies, and together they make up the Lake Superior Technical Committee (LSTC). This committee operates under the auspices of the Lake Superior Commit- tee (LSC), which is one of five Lake Committees that was formed by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in 1965 to facilitate agency-to-agency interaction and implement management plans to tackle fisheries issues such as the invasion of the sea lamprey. The main purpose of the LSTC, however, is to collect and interpret biological data and convey management recommendations to the LSC. ThemaintopicdiscussedattherecentLSTCmeetingwasthestate-of-the-lake report (SOL)—a document produced every five years by various members of the LSTC that assesses population trends of ecologically and economically important species. The report outlines specific goals, or Fish Community Objectives (FCO), that were established by the LSC as a sort of “report card” for the health of Lake Superior’s ecosystem and fish populations. For example, the FCO for lake whitefish is to maintain self-sustaining popu- lations within the range of abundance observed during 1990-99. It was reported at the LSTC meeting that the lakewide population of adult whitefish has been decreasing since the mid 2000’s, and this is reflected by an overall decrease in commercial gill net yield during that time period; however, the level of relative abundance is still within the range of abundance specified by the FCO (Figure 1). There are numerous FCO’s for Lake Superior, each pertaining to a species or a group of species, and the full SOL report will be presented by LSTC members to the Lake Superior Committee at the Lakes Committee Meetings, which are being held in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario during March 19-22, 2018. If you have any questions relating to the LSTC or topics that were discussed at the meeting, please feel free to contact Ben Michaels at smichaels@glifwc.org. Bi-national committee gives Gichigami a checkup By Ben Michaels, GLIFWC Fisheries Biologist Figure 1. Commercial gill net CPUE (kg/km) of lake whitefish in Lake Superior during 2001–2016. Dotted lines represent the average CPUE during 2001– 2005, 2006–2011, and 2012–2016. The shaded region represents the range of CPUE values where FCO is being achieved (65–136 kg/km). Research institute helps GLIFWC, tribes track fish contamination For native people bound to traditional homelands, airborne pollution is a problem. Food comes from your home territory. In the Great Lakes region, mer- cury deposited directly into the environment through precipita- tion can make fish unsafe for humans to eat. “It’s so important to know what’s in the fish you eat. That’s especially true for everyone who includes fish as a significant part of their diet,” said Christine Polkinghorne, lead scientist at Lake Superior Research Institute (LSRI). “You have to know if there are toxins present.” According to Polkinghorne some mercury is naturally occurring—existing as natural deposits—while human activity accounts for a significant volume of the toxin that is introduced into the environment each year. Burning coal to produce electricity,householdwasteincineration,andminingactivityareprimarycontribu- tors. Once released into Ceded Territory ecosystems, bacteria transform inorganic mercury into the more toxic compound, methylmercury. “It ends up bio-accumulating,” Polkinghorne said. Mercury concentrations move up the food chain. Larger, older fish often harbor higher levels of mercury. Housed on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus, LSRI has ana- lyzed fish tissue for GLIFWC for more than two decades. In coordination with the Enforcement Division, GLIFWC researchers purchase walleye samples from tribal spearers at boatlandings every spring. Fish samples from the Great Lakes—including whitefish and siscowet trout—are similarly acquired from Lake Superior commercial fishermen along with research crews conducting routine assessments. Additional tribal food fish—muskellunge, whitefish, northern pike, cisco, and burbot—have been sampled at LSRI as well. Polkinghorne said that while there have been technological advances in processing samples, LSRI is careful to adhere to original testing procedures to produce accurate results over time. “Quality control is a really important part of what we do,” she said. “The methods are still the same, but the instruments are easier to use.” Using food processors familiar to household kitchens, lab technicians grind fish tissue to help “homogenize” entire fillets, Polkinghorne said. Flesh is further broken down with chemicals including nitric and sulfuric acid. Once processing is complete, the resulting solution is analyzed for mercury in a FIMS 100, a compact machine about the size of a 12-pack. The entire procedure is regularly monitored by an independent quality assurance manger. “We have a high level of confidence in the data we produce here,” Polking- horne said. The work ultimately helps GLIFWC circulate sound advice about how much fish can be safely eaten. LSRI conducts fishery pollutant assessments for additional tribal resource organizationsincludingdepartmentsfromFondduLacBand,GrandPortageBand, Lac du Flambeau Band, and 1854 Treaty Authority. By Charlie Otto Rasmussen, Editor Processed fish tissue samples. Technicians at LSRI laboratories in Superior, prepare fish samples for mercury testing. (CO Rasmussen photos) MAZINA’IGAN PAGE 18 SPRING 2018 Deep Snow Camp (continued from page 9)