Aboriginal perspectives on Canada’s fisheries

How indigenous knowledge systems can inform fisheries governance

- June 21, 2012

Eskasoni, Nova Scotia. (Provided photo)
Eskasoni, Nova Scotia. (Provided photo)

Tourists from far and wide come to Nova Scotia to soak up its scenic views, breathe in its salty air and indulge palates with an assortment of fresh and local seafood. But with 90 per cent of the world’s fish population experiencing diminishing stocks, Nova Scotians and the world at large need to create a better way to maintain healthy fish populations.

To help with that goal, Lucia Fanning, director of the Marine Affairs Program at Dalhousie, has been awarded $1,997,900 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and $1,218,800 in in-kind partner contributions to explore how fisheries governance in Canada can be improved by using the best model or mix of models from western and indigenous knowledge systems.

"The Fisheries – Western and Indigenous Knowledge Systems project is all about understanding and using the best that indigenous and western knowledge systems have to offer to better govern and manage our fisheries,” says Dr. Fanning. “With partners spanning Canada’s three marine coasts and the inland region, we have a unique opportunity to acquire policy-relevant knowledge valuable to both indigenous (First Nations and Inuit) and non-indigenous decision makers and users of this invaluable natural resource.”

Traditionally, Canadian fisheries governance has been influenced by “top-down” western knowledge systems. In contrast, indigenous knowledge systems, which tend to be more place-based, holistic and personal, have seemed to meet community needs without depleting stock.

Dr. Fanning will partner with the Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Fisheries Council of British Columbia, the Government of Nunavut, the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources and researchers from University of Guelph, University of Toronto and Vancouver Island University to analyze the similarities and differences of the indigenous knowledge systems in the coastal communities of Tla-o-qui-aht, B.C., Pangnirtung, Nunavut, Nipissing, Ont., and Eskasoni, N.S.

Supporting Aboriginal communities

Today (June 21) is National Aboriginal Day, first celebrated in 1996 to recognize the cultures and contributions of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.

Here are just some of the Dalhousie activities supporting and connecting with Aboriginal communities:

- Dalhousie researchers are partnering with the Nunatsiavut Government and NunatuKavut Community Council on a $200,000 SSHRC-funded research program to examine the impact of Spaces and Places (parks, libraries, school spaces, etc.) on the psyche, sense of community and stability of Aboriginal youth.

- For more than 20 years, Dal’s Native Education Counselling Unit has provided educational and support services—and a social space on campus—for Métis, Inuit and First Nations students not only at Dalhousie, but also from universities across Halifax. Last fall, it moved to its new location at 6286 South Street.

- Dalhousie’s Transition Year Program (TYP) is in its 42nd year of preparing Aboriginal and Black students for admission to university degree programs. In addition to providing a selection of courses, it offers financial and academic support as students progress towards a first degree.

- The Faculty of Dentistry has partnered with Labrador's three Aboriginal groups on outreach projects to support health promotion, advocacy and policy development in the region.

- Dalhousie’s SuperNOVA summer camps bring science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programing to low-income, First Nations, Inuit and African Nova Scotian youth. In 2011 SuperNOVA partnered with the Nunatsiavut Government to provide STEM programming to 567 Inuit youth.


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