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Knowledge, Power, and Salmon:
A Story of Nuu-chah-nulth Fishing Rights Assertion
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I conducted my dissertation research with the permission, guidance, and collaboration of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations and Ha'oom Fishing Society. Tla-o-qui-aht have generously welcomed me into the Tla-o-qui-aht hahouthli (territory) and have shared traditional practices of governance and knowledge of rivers and salmon so that my research may in turn support their path to self-determination.
My dissertation research focuses on knowledge integration into salmon fishery governance on the west coast of Vancouver Island, B.C. (WCVI). Salmon is highly valued for cultural, environmental, economic, spiritual, and relational importance to multiple First Nation and Canadian stakeholders that hold different worldviews, beliefs, and knowledges. This presents a challenge in developing fishery management plans that adequately address stakeholder rights, knowledge, values while meeting fishery and conservation objectives. My research is guided by the following general questions:
i) How do governing bodies and user groups interact and make decisions regarding access and use of WCVI salmon fisheries?
ii) Within these interactions, how are scientific, local, and indigenous knowledges and values shared? Which are integrated into decision –making for salmon fishery management, and what is the effect?
iii) How is power exercised and redistributed in these interactions? In what ways are power and the integration of knowledge and value into policy in WCVI salmon fishery governance connected?
These governance structures, relationships, and power dynamics are changing dramatically. Canada's supreme court recently recognized the commercial fishing rights of Tla-o-qui-aht and four other Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations and ordered Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to integrate these rights into their management practices. Ha'oom Fishing Society manages the demonstration for - sale fisheries for these five First Nations. Additionally, Bill C-68 mandates that DFO integrate local and indigenous knowledges into fishery management plans. The Nations each have their own governing body which includes management of traditional and home use fisheries. The Nations, DFO, Ha'oom Fishing Society, and other stakeholders are developing novel methods of knowledge mobilization as a means of affirming First Nations' agency, integrating indigenous rights and knowledge, and potentially shifting the fundamental structure of WCVI fishery governance. I am documenting these transitions and assessing the efficacy of indigenous knowledge integration in Canadian WCVI salmon fishery management.