Dune Lankard, a native Athabaskan Eyak of the Eagle Clan from the Copper River Delta of Alaska and former commercial fisherman, became a community activist dedicated to protecting endangered fish stocks around the world after the Exxon Valdez disaster. Dune is now a strategic and guiding force for fisheries management for the Eyak Preservation Council.
Dune Lankard is a strategic and guiding force for the Eyak Preservation Council. His stances in his community have shown vision and courage, and suffice it to say that they have not always been popular and understood by some.The morning he found his homelands covered with oil from the Exxon Valdez disaster, he turned from commercial fisherman to dedicated community activist. Since that day, he has been recognized for his abilities to link cultural and environmental solutions.His commitment to sustainability, led to his selection as a 2011 Seafood Champion.
What does it mean to you to be a Seafood Champion?
Dune Lankard: To be recognized as a Seafood Champion by my peers is an absolute honor and an opportunity to call for more environmentally responsible seafood management practices. It’s up to us to get involved by protecting and restoring habitat, and demanding accountability and traceability of our seafood resources. I’m confident that together, we can make a real difference and I’m proud beyond belief to be a part of a new future for our oceans and our fisheries.
How did you become interested in the issue of sustainable seafood?
I started fishing with my family in the late 1960s. We cared for every fish that landed on our boat. We knew where our food came from: They came from our hooks, lines, pots and nets. As I grew into an adult and saw the gear and boats get bigger and have more hydraulics, I realized that we as fishers were extremely effective at killing every fish in the sea.
After the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, I decided to spend the rest of my life preserving and protecting as much wild salmon habitat as possible. Then, when I decided to get back into the fishing industry, I knew that I had to be part of a new breed of fishers who would dedicate our lives to making the industry more conscious and sustainable while increasing the quality from sea to consumer and reducing our carbon footprint wherever we can.
How does your concept of sustainable seafood fit with your philosophy on ocean conservation?
I absolutely believe in ocean conservation and good fishery management and policy reform to help protect thriving ecosystems and rebuild lost and endangered fish stocks and coral reefs affected by overfishing, pollution, natural disasters and climate change.
Once fishers and indigenous people are completely included (not just impacted) in the policy decision-making process and the new conservation vision created for our world’s oceans and fisheries, we will make much-needed progress and create positive lifelong change in our oceans and for future generations.
What trends have you noticed in seafood in the past 10 years?
Less seafood being harvested from the sea. More bycatch from trawlers. More wild King salmon harvested as bycatch. More pollution. More seafood waste. More tourism. Fewer wild stocks. Less commercial salmon runs. More fish farms. Now genetically engineered salmon. No FDA requirements for identifying what fish we’re really eating. Increasing appetite and prices for wild salmon. More talk, and not enough action.
This is why wild fishers need to drastically increase quality of their products from sea to consumer, and sell direct. This will bring the price back down to being more affordable, while increasing the quality of our seafoods, guaranteeing catch identity and cultivating relationships between the fishers and consumers of our products.
What is your favorite seafood to eat? Fish for?
I love salmon, ling cod, red snapper and tuna. As long as I know where it came from and who caught it, it is one of my favorite. I also fish for all five species of salmon (king, red, silver, chum and pink) and halibut and spotted prawns. I love them all.
What do you think the most effective way to catalyze change in the seafood industry is?
For me, working with Cheryl Dahle and her Future of Fish team to move forward and explore new business models that can support better and fairer livelihoods for fishers, as well as increase quality from sea to consumer and protect our endangered fish stocks around the world. We as a fishing industry need to accept that ocean acidification and climate change are real, are happening and impacting our fisheries. At the rate we are allowing carbon emissions to enter our atmosphere, and if we do nothing to curb it drastically, we only have 50 years of productive oceans left. We as a seafood industry need to be proactive and do our part to reduce the carbon footprint in the seafood industry in every way possible—now.
We need more integrated ideas of sustainability, its power to drive real change are super important and possible. We possess the creativity and technology to change the world, but we have to ask ourselves, do we have the courage and will to fix it, to help save it? I believe we do, so let’s do it together and make a worldwide difference while we still can.
Dune is ancestrally from, and a lifelong resident of, Cordova. Dune’s Eyak name is Jamachakih, which is translated as “Little bird that screams really loud and won’t shut up.” For his work, he was selected by Time magazine as one of its “Heroes of the Planet.” In 2006, he was named an Ashoka Social Entrepreneur Fellow; in 2007, his nonprofit business idea for the Cordova Cold Storage and Cookery was awarded a Marketplace Alaska award by the Alaska Federation of Natives. He was recently awarded a Hunt Alternatives Fund-Prime Movers Fellowship: Cultivating Social Capital Award. He sits on boards of the Bioneers, Eyak Preservation Council, the NATIVE Conservancy, REDOIL and the FIRE Fund and on the advisory board of the Seva Foundation and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance. Currently, he is very involved in EPC’s Tribal Copper River Keeper program, Bering Coal Conservation Opportunity and the Shepard Point campaigns. He is one of EPC’s Copper River Wilderness Raft guides. A commercial and subsistence fisherman, he now is proud to have a biodiesel compatible Steyr engine in his boat, On Course.
Eyak Preservation Council