In the Name of the ‘Salvation’ Fish

September 11, 2015

La Paz Group

Also known as candlefish, eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus) are so oily that they can ignite when dried. Traditionally, eulachon were used at times as lights by Nisga'a people.  PHOTO:  PAUL COLANGELO Also known as candlefish, eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus) are so oily that they can ignite when dried. Traditionally, eulachon were used at times as lights by Nisga’a people. PHOTO: PAUL COLANGELO

A Nisga'a woman hangs eulachon on a ganee'e, or air-drying rack. PHOTO: PAUL COLANGELO A Nisga’a woman hangs eulachon on a ganee’e, or air-drying rack. PHOTO: PAUL COLANGELO

Often referred to as “salvation fish” for safeguarding native people from starvation, the eulachon is now in need of a lifeline itself—as its habitat and population are in danger. National Geographic reports on the fish’s historical and cultural significance and the the many changes in the ocean that have led to the decline of the eulachon’s numbers:

The fish are also known as halimotkw, often translated as “savior fish” or “salvation fish.” Eulachon return to the rivers here to spawn at the end of the North Pacific winter, when historically food supplies would be running low. In lean years the eulachon’s arrival meant the difference between life…

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