FISHES: Fostering Indigenous Small-scale fisheries for Health, Economy, and Food Security
Principal Investigator: Schott, Stephan (2)
Licence Number: 17006
Organization: Carleton University
Licensed Year(s): 2022 2021
Issued: Apr 21, 2022
Project Team: Walter Bezha, Edward Reeves, Johann Strube, Grace Martin, Louise Chavarie, Deborah Simmons, Emma Wood, Emmelie Paquette, Louis Bernatchez,

Objective(s): To better understand how Northern communities can benefit and are benefitting from local fisheries for food security, cultural purposes and economic development.

Project Description: This licence has been issued for the scientific research application No.5164.

The FISHES (Fostering Indigenous Small-scale fisheries for Health, Economy, and Food Security) research project aims to better understand how Northern communities can benefit and are benefitting from local fisheries for food security, cultural purposes and economic development. The goal of this study is to combine biology, fisheries science, social science, and Indigenous knowledge to understand how to sustainably harvest and manage three culturally important fish stocks in Great Bear Lake (lake trout, whitefish, and cisco) in the face of climate change, socioeconomic and cultural change, and governance challenges.

Working in direct partnership with the community of De´li?ne? in Sahtú Region, the research team will develop a fine-scale understanding of the cultural and socio-economic significance of local fish species to inform community-led visions for small-scale fisheries. The resulting community-led vision(s) will encompass conservation or commercial, recreational, and/or subsistence harvesting, of which community members are the leaders and primary benefactors. The following initial objectives will necessarily adapt in response to the needs of the community, guided by a knowledge co-evolution framework that progresses both Indigenous knowledge and science:
1) Bridge and validate modern science and local knowledge to inform stock assessments;
2) Conduct a gender-based analysis of the use of fish and related economic and social activities by individuals and families; and
3) Facilitate the transfer, augmentation, and application of local knowledge and preferences for fisheries development.

The research team will also establish culturally appropriate protocols and standards of engagement for researchers and practitioners. The team expect this research will provide knowledge that will help northern communities, their governments, anglers and people who eat fish in both Northern and Southern Canada, and the federal government, by improving the understanding of the role of fish in Northern Canada and the best ways to manage fisheries sustainably. Finally, the FISHES project will connect as much as possible with the concurrent Genome Canada-funded project focused on the co-production of approaches to boreal caribou conversation in the Sahtú Region.

The research method will be participatory and adaptive, in collaboration with a community researcher who is fluent in the local Sahtúot’i?ne Yati?´ language. Details of the research design will be worked out with the De´li?ne? Renewable Resources council (DRRC). Based on preliminary discussion with the De´line Renewable Resources Council and Sahtú Renewable Resources Board (SRRB), the team expect the research will involve a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, including consultative workshops, interviews, surveys (virtually and in-person), and interactive digital mapping approaches to validate and bridge the existing monitoring data from Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The workshops will be organized first, followed up by individual interviews and a survey about recreational fishing preferences.

The research team will have a number of consecutive workshops with different target groups (e.g. elders, active harvesters, women, youth, etc.). Each workshop will be about half a day long with an additional half-day group or community discussion for some topics. The workshops will be held in De´li?ne?. Working together with local partners, the workshops will involve 10-15 community members in the community. These community members are knowledge holders, youth, hunters, and food providers for their communities. Key members of the community with experience and expert knowledge of fishes in Great Bear Lake and elders will be invited as well as other youths and others. The DRRC and SRRB will be asked to recommend participants and will have an opportunity to review and provide input on the focus group process design. The research team will ask participants about their experience with fish and fish stocks in and around their community, their views of changes and management practices, and other topics related to the research.

As a follow-up to workshops, interviews (and/or surveys) will allow for more in-depth exploration of traditional knowledge questions with the most knowledgeable individuals. The interviews will be semi-structured, based on key themes identified during the workshops. The interviews will be recorded and notes will be taken.

The research team anticipate four types of workshops (each supported by follow-up interviews) covering different themes, as follows:
1. “Indigenous identification and categorization of local fish species” workshop/interviews will aim to understand the population characteristics of key fish species of interest and what directions communities wish to take, engaging Elders in the project from the outset to guide research and to share knowledge with youth and active harvesters. The team will use Indigenous fish identification as a starting point to discuss related Indigenous knowledge, such as place names for fish habitat and fishing habits;
2. “Fisheries now and in the past: Subsistence, commercial, and recreational” workshop/interviews will aim to describe how the different types of fisheries are conducted, in terms of who, when, where, what species and how. The team will discuss and document local understandings, interactions and relationships between humans, fish, and places, as well as the importance of fisheries for local culture and well-being;
3. “Fisheries now and in the future: Subsistence, commercial, and recreational” workshop/interviews will aim to describe how subsistence, commercial and recreational fishing is changing, document barriers and opportunities related to subsistence, commercial and recreational fishing, and identify concerns and aspirations related to fish and fishing activities; and
4. “Women’s role in fisheries” workshop/interviews will aim to document the roles, knowledge, and relationships of women with respect to fish and fishing; understand if and how women’s roles and relationships to fish and fishing are changing; and, understand the role of women in the processing and use of fish and the management of fisheries.

The primary research languages will be Sahtúot’i?ne Yati?´ and English. The community researcher will be familiar with the research questions and will be able to co-facilitate the work with the lead researcher. When it is necessary for the lead researcher to present information or ask follow-up questions, this will be communicated in plain language, and translated into Sahtúot’i?ne Yati?´ for the participants. Indigenous traditional knowledge is story-based, and the approach will be flexible, and respectful of this way of knowing, providing space for participants to explore their own questions and interests related to trout, whitefish, and cisco populations around the lake. This approach will enrich results and lead to discoveries about the core research question that may not come to light in a more structured question-based context. At the same time, the process will provide an opportunity for participants to learn about scientific questions driving the research, and provide specific elicited input about data analysis, use, and sharing.

The research team has research agreements with the De´li?ne? Renewable Resources Council and Sahtú Renewable Resources Board. Communication in support of this project has occurred since February 2019 via email and videoconferencing. Virtual pre-engagement workshops were held on June 8th 2020, June 23rd 2020, and October 20th 2020 with representatives from the De´li?ne? Renewable Resources Council, the Sahtú Renewable Resources Board, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and members of the FISHES project. (For full workshop participant lists, please contact Deborah Simmons, Executive Director, Sahtú Renewable Resources Board).

The research team will maintain close communication with the De´li?ne? Renewable Resources Council, Sahtú Renewable Resources Board, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and regional advisory boards throughout all stages of the research project. When the research team is not in NWT, communication will occur primarily via telephone, email, video conferencing, and other digital platforms. Biannual regional advisory board meetings are an opportunity for local stakeholders to provide direct guidance and feedback on the study (virtually or in-person).

Research results will be shared with the local partners and their communities through validation workshops, atlas, and mapping tools that can share data visually. Data will also be shared at workshops and conferences such as Arctic Net. The team expect this research will also result in publications in academic journals and similar outlets. The research team will always consult with the partners on publication formats and confidentiality of data and information and will involve them in publications as much as possible. Final results will be shared via presentations to schools and to the community of De´li?ne?, the De´li?ne? Renewable Resources Council, the Sahtú Renewable Resource Board, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the regional advisory board. Summary and results will be provided in the form of a plain language report. Final copies of a Ph.D. thesis (by Grace Martin supervised by Stephan Schott) and any primary publications resulting from the work will also be provided to these organizations. The research team will encourage our collaborators from the north to join us in presenting these results.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from April 20, 2022 to December 31, 2022