Pacific Salmon Foundation: Salmon Watersheds Program

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Indigenous Systems of Management for Culturally and Ecologically Resilient Pacific Salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) Fisheries

author Atlas et al.
published year 2021
document type journal article
species Pacific salmon, steelhead
location British Columbia
subjects traditional knowledge, climate change, sustainable fisheries, mixed-stock fisheries, Indigenous governance
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Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) are at the center of social–ecological systems that have supported Indigenous peoples around the North Pacific Rim since time immemorial. Through generations of interdependence with salmon, Indigenous Peoples developed sophisticated systems of management involving cultural and spiritual beliefs, and stewardship practices. Colonization radically altered these social–ecological systems, disrupting Indigenous management, consolidating authority within colonial governments, and moving most harvest into mixed-stock fisheries. We review Indigenous management of salmon, including selective fishing technologies, harvest practices, and governance grounded in multigenerational place-based knowledge. These systems and practices showcase pathways for sustained productivity and resilience in contemporary salmon fisheries. Contrasting Indigenous systems with contemporary management, we document vulnerabilities of colonial governance and harvest management that have contributed to declining salmon fisheries in many locations. We suggest that revitalizing traditional systems of salmon management can improve prospects for sustainable fisheries and healthy fishing communities and identify opportunities for their resurgence.