It was a light-hearted celebration on the banks of the Bella Coola last week as the community undertook a traditional ‘welcome back’ ceremony for the sputc (eulachon).
Although high water levels in the river have stymied local sampling efforts, local Nuxalk scientist and eulachon researcher Megan Moody said that a few have been spotted.
“It’s been hard to spot them, but we have seen a few,” she told the crowd gathered for the event. “Once river levels drop we’ll be able to get a better idea of how many are there.”
The day was filled with dances and songs, offerings and the unveiling of a sign located next to the eulachon pole that details a short history of the eulachon, the traditional song and the explanation of the pole.
It has been decades since the waters of the Bella Coola have been black with eulachon and the riverbanks buzzing with preparations, fishing and people. But that loss hasn’t dampened the appetites people still have for the small fish and its coveted grease.
The fish abruptly disappeared in 1999 and several factors have been identified as possible contributors for the crash. Trawling, warmer ocean temperatures and a smaller local river system are all thought to be reasons for the disappearance.
Moody remains confident that recovery of the eulachon stock is possible, and her tireless efforts do not go unnoticed. Her latest project, along with key community members and PhD student Rachelle Beveridge, is the production of the tentatively titled “Nuxalk Sputc Handbook.” The book will contain both historical and present information, statistics, key uses, and traditional knowledge.
The handbook, which was available at the hall for community review following the ceremony, is in the editing stages and will probably be published in the next few months.