NEAH BAY (August 6, 2004) – Indian tribes have known for centuries that the oceans and river estuaries are key barometers of change in the environment.

As part of contributing that knowledge to others, the Makah Tribe and Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission hosted a three-day training this past week in Neah Bay for tribal biologists and technicians to learn more tools to monitor and assess the condition of freshwater and coastal systems.

“The Makah Tribe takes pride in their environmental awareness,” said Russ Svec, fisheries manager for the tribe. “It is embedded in our culture and traditions as ocean-going people,” he said. Svec said the ability to detect changes in their environment is something that was handed down from their elders, but in today’s world, learning the technological advances in research allows quicker response and solutions to problems the tribe faces now and in the future.

“This training helps assure that our data methods are in sync with the National Coastal Condition Report,” said David Lawes, environmental advisor for the Makah Tribe. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues the report as part of their Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP). The information allows health comparison of coastal areas anywhere in the United States because the assessment methods are the same.

Three certified trainers from the Makah Tribe assisted Janet Lamberson, research aquatic biologist for EMAP, with the training held this week. Methods demonstrated at the workshop included: sediment collections, including separating out metal contaminants; water quality sampling; fish sampling, identification and taking tissue samples.

“The training has been very helpful,” said Lori DeLorn, natural resources technician for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. DeLorn was one of an estimated 20 biologists and technicians who participated. “I’ll be able to take home a lot of information and I think we can apply it on a smaller scale to our projects and work up to the EMAP scope.”

“It’s about the health of our people – having the ability to monitor the condition of our bays and estuaries and making sure those are healthy,” said Vincent Cooke, environmental division manager for the tribe and representative on the National Coastal Assessment steering committee.

“This also helps us add capacity to gather baseline data about our resources,” Cooke said. “After the Tenyo Maru oil spill (1991), we didn’t have enough information to properly assess monetary damages to our natural resources. It was significant,” he said.

The National Coastal Condition Report was the result of a congressional desire for a health report on the nation’s streams, estuaries and near-coastal waters. One report has been issued since the project began in 1990 and a second is due in October. For more information on the web about EMAP: http://www.epa.gov/emap/

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For more information, contact: Russ Svec, fisheries manager, Makah Tribe, 645-3160; Vincent Cooke, environmental division manager, 645-3263; David Lawes, environmental advisor, 645-3160; Jennifer Hagen, habitat biologist, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, 374-5501.