Tribal Rights and Fish Consumption Workshop: Issues and Opportunities for the Pacific Northwest

History and Background

This workshop provides an excellent example of how academic institutions can partner with local and regional government agencies in a long-term effort to address community priorities. The original planning for the 2009 workshop began in 2007 with Lon Kissinger, an EPA staff member in the Risk Evaluation Unit (REU) of EPA Region 10, whose work involves assessment of risks posed by environmental contamination. Lon was interested in creating a discussion forum on fish consumption, treaty rights, risk assessment, and environmental regulation involving a broad audience of interested parties.  Alongside communication with Tribes, agencies, environmental organizations, Lon worked with academic colleagues at Seattle University, University of Washington (UW) School of Public Health and Law School and with Oregon State University (OSU) College of Public Health and Human Sciences.  Lon planned an initial workshop to provide an overview of treaty rights, documenting tribal consumption practices and rates at the time of the treaties and demonstrating how EPA risk assessors might go about honoring treaty rights- and using treaty-based numbers in practice. The two-hour workshop called Treaty Rights and Fish Consumption: Honoring Tribes’ Rights in Practice was held at EPA in Seattle on September 27. 2007. Presenters at the workshop were Jamie Donatuto, Ph.D., who works with the Swinomish Tribe and Catherine O’Neill, Ph.D., Professor at Seattle University Law School. The two-hour workshop covered the use of traditional subsistence consumption rates for Native Americans as determined and protected by treaties. The broad audience for the workshop included Tribal representatives, lawyers, scientists, policy analysts and decision-makers. 

One of the outcomes of the 2007 workshop was the development of a working group that followed up on many of the important issues discussed. Over the next two years, the workgroup held several planning calls and developed the agenda for the 2009 Tribal Rights & Fish Consumption Workshop: Issues and Opportunities for the Pacific Northwest. The UW Institute for Risk Analysis and Risk Communication, UW Pacific Northwest Center for Human Health and Ocean Studies and  the UW Superfund Research Program provided support to host and organize the workshop.

Workshop Overview

The objective of the two-day Tribal Rights and Fish Consumption Workshop was to determine what key issues were related to establishing Tribal fish consumption rates in Washington State. The workshop planning committee was able to award fellowships to a number of participants to ensure a broad range of issues were included in the discussions. Workshop participants came from Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. There were 64 attendees that included 27 participants representing 14 tribes, 15 government agency representatives, 6 participants from the private sector; 3 environmental advocates and 10 individuals participating from three regional academic institutions. The workshop schedule included sessions on the following themes:

  • The Legal Framework: Obligations and Opportunities
  • Pacific Northwest Exposure Within a Tribal Context
  • Building the Case of Importance of Fish Consumption and Tribal Health
  • Fish Consumption Rate Standards and Protection of Human Health
  • Fish Consumption Rates and Regulatory Decision Making Within the State of Washington
  • Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Fish Consumption Rate Project

Results from workshop evaluations indicated that the materials covered were useful to the participants and that the modules and panel discussions were very valuable. Participant responses indicated that the workshop provided a good venue for networking and discussing lessons learned. Workshop outcomes included the development of regional contacts and the establishment of web resources to provide easy access to updates on modifications made by states to establish safe sediment cleanup levels that protect human health, as well as relevant research publications, regional news stories and other information resources (see below).

Workshop Sponsors

Institute for Risk Analysis and Risk Communication, University of Washington

Information Resources

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality - Water Quality Standards

Recent Publications

Fishable Waters- Social Science Research Network Electronic Paper Collection- 2013, Catherine A. O’Neill.

Perceptions of the Environment and Health Among Members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Environmental Justice, vol 6, No 3, 2013.Marc B Schure, Molly L. Kile, Anna Harding, Barbara Harper, Stuart Harris, Sandra Uesugi and R. Turner Goins.

Recent Presentations

Rights-Based/Heritage Fish Consumption Rates in the Columbia Basin and Water Quality Standards , Barbara Harper

Recent News Stories


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