Human Ecology

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 167–183 | Cite as

Improving the American Eel Fishery Through the Incorporation of Indigenous Knowledge into Policy Level Decision Making in Canada

  • Amber Giles
  • Lucia FanningEmail author
  • Shelley Denny
  • Tyson Paul


Effective management of ecosystems, natural resources, and harvesting practices is essential for ecosystem health and the sustainable use of marine resources. Although the value, importance, and benefits of the incorporation of indigenous knowledge, particularly of traditional ecological knowledge into western science-policy decision-making have been well recognized over the past few decades, suitable mechanisms for collecting and incorporating indigenous knowledge into policy level decision making are not yet well understood. This study examines the Canadian government’s assessment process for the American eel, Anguilla rostrata, as well as the community level management process for the eel fishery in Eskasoni First Nation, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. This case study allows for an exploration of the challenges arising from differing worldviews and possible mechanisms for meaningful integration of indigenous values into governmental policy level decision-making.


Indigenous knowledge Knowledge systems American eel fishery Eskasoni First Nation Canada 



The authors would like to acknowledge with thanks the willingness of all participants who agreed to share their knowledge for this study and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Research involving human participants: This study is based on research involving human participants and has obtained Ethics Approval from Dalhousie University Research Ethics Board as well as Ethics Approval from the Mi’kmaq Ethics Watch.

Informed Consent

All participants in this research have provided the authors with signed letters of Informed Consent.


This study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grant #895-2011-1007.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marine Affairs ProgramDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Unama’ki Institute of Natural ResourcesCape BretonCanada

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