Drawing on Indigenous Governance and Stewardship to Build Resilient Coastal Fisheries: People and Abalone along Canada's Northwest Coast

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Final version published as: 

Lee, L., M. Reid, R. Jones, J. Winbourne, M. Rutherford, and A. Salomon. 2019. Drawing on indigenous governance and stewardship to build resilient coastal fisheries: People and abalone along Canada’s northwest coast. Marine Policy 109. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103701

Date created: 
Northern abalone
Adaptive co-management
Federal governance
Indigenous governance
Social-ecological resilience
Traditional knowledge

Small-scale indigenous abalone fisheries on the northwest coast of Canada persisted for at least two millennia prior to modern commercial and recreational fisheries that lasted for four decades before collapsing, causing a coast wide closure that remains today. What traditional governance and stewardship practices fostered resilient fisheries along Canada’s northwest coast and how might they inform collaborative institutions that foster ecologically sustainable and socially just coastal fisheries in future? In collaboration with two coastal First Nations, a policy analysis of northern abalone (GaalGuuhlkyan (Skidegate Haida), ǧaɫǧṇ̓íq̓ (Heiltsuk), Haliotis kamtschatkana) stewardship was conducted to assess where traditional and modern fisheries governance and management aligned or failed to align with seven theoretical principles of socialecological resilience. The analysis revealed that traditional principles of reciprocity and contingent proprietorship of clan-based fishing areas aligned with resilience principles whereas contemporary centralized decision-making and region-wide management policies did not. Moreover, current issues of power asymmetry and lack of trust need to be addressed to build a future indigenous-state governance approach to coastal fisheries. This research demonstrates how indigenous resource governance and stewardship practices generated over millennia of social learning and experimentation offer insights that could be broadly applied to foster resilient coastal fisheries today.


The full text of this paper will be available in October, 2020, due to the embargo policies of Marine Policy for works funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Contact summit@sfu.ca to enquire if the full text of the accepted manuscript can be made available to you.

Document type: 
Rights remain with the authors.
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Species at Risk Program
Tula Foundation/Hakai Institute