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Creating the present by imagining the future for Nunatsiavut’s fisheries: Research in OFI Module I-A

by

Rachael Cadman, OFI Module I PhD student

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Nain, September 2019 ©Rachael Cadman

It is imperative that Labrador Inuit values and priorities are reflected in natural resource management, and that includes long term planning. This work contributes to that project by strengthening the group’s collective political voice to substantively incorporate Labrador Inuit values into fisheries governance.

As I write this, the Torngat Wildlife, Plants and Fisheries Secretariat is gearing up for its annual Fisheries Workshop for stakeholders in Nunatsiavut’s commercial fishing industry: This year held in a hybrid format the first week of February. The workshops are an occasion when policy makers, fishers, managers and scientists come together to discuss both the fishing season that has just passed, and what is anticipated for the next year. It is an opportunity for fishers to voice their concerns and contribute to recommendations made in the co-management process. The meetings are well attended, lively and productive, and yet for years stakeholders have been voicing an important concern: these meetings, on their own, do not provide space to consider long term planning for fisheries, but rather force them to contemplate only the immediate future.


A recent literature review conducted by the Torngat Secretariat came to a similar conclusion. They found that Nunatsiavut’s four commercial fisheries are interconnected with one another and with the broader social and economic systems of the land claim area. The review found that despite these deep connections, the fisheries are generally managed on a short term, species-specific basis which may not be adequate for the needs of the industry and the communities at large. Furthermore, despite the social, cultural and economic importance of fisheries to the region, political interventions have prevented Labrador Inuit from fully benefitting from their adjacent marine resources. Given the results of this research, a group of Nunatsiavut’s fisheries stakeholders, including the Secretariat, the Torngat Fish Producers Co-operative, and the Nunatsiavut Government have concluded that there is a need to shift the focus of fisheries management in the region towards more holistic, long-term planning for the future of the industry. To that end, they partnered with academics (including myself) at Dalhousie and Memorial Universities to create a vision for the future that is distinct to the region and reflective of the community.


Together, this group has designed a study to elicit dialogue between stakeholders in order to build a shared vision of the future of Nunatsiavut’s commercial fishing industry. We ask: what does a self-determined vision of the future look like, and what might it look like to practically incorporate that vision into fisheries policy? The study is based on the Delphi Method, a systematic process in which a group of experts respond to multiple rounds of surveys, providing feedback in order to bring the group towards consensus. In our study, partner organizations, policy makers and fishers will participate in a series of interviews designed to identify the top concerns, management priorities, and guiding values held by the group. While we do not anticipate complete consensus on all topics given the wide range of participants, we do expect to locate spaces where stakeholders hold a shared vision of the future, and thus where collaboration is possible.


Our goal is to contribute to the increased power of Inuit priorities in fisheries governance. Labrador Inuit have rights and responsibilities to the land and waters of their traditional territories which predate the colonial legal system. It is imperative that Labrador Inuit values and priorities are reflected in natural resource management, and that includes long term planning. This work contributes to that project by strengthening the group’s collective political voice to substantively incorporate Labrador Inuit values into fisheries governance.


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Written by

Rachael Cadman

Rachael Cadman is an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. student at Dalhousie University. She completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of King's College and a Master of Resource and Environmental Management from Dalhousie University. Rachael currently works alongside the Torngat Plants, Wildlife and Fisheries Secretariat and other partners to map out a vision of the future of fisheries in Nunatsiavut and create holistic fisheries governance solutions that are resilient against environmental and societal change. She enjoys the opportunity to do research in a space that is more iterative and collaborative than traditional research projects.