In order to appreciate the varied knowledge that Indigenous and Traditional Peoples have worldwide we will journey around the globe and hear from communities tied to our team members (see Fig. 4) about how we have come to the current state (Business as Usual), and highlighting where changes are necessary and where activities should be continually supported to achieve future aspirations. Each of the case studies is written by the Indigenous and Traditional authors, giving Indigenous and Traditional Peoples an opportunity to share their diverse experiences. This diversity is reflected in the narratives with variations between the case studies i.e. species names.
We start our journey in the North-Western Pacific Ocean.
Haida Gwaii (Canada), contributed via hereditary Chief Nang Jingwas (Russ Jones)
Haida Gwaii or “Islands of the People”, is an archipelago lying on the edge of the continental shelf off the north coast of British Columbia (BC) and is the home of the Indigenous Haida Nation. The Haida Nation has about 5000 citizensFootnote 2 and about half currently live in Haida Gwaii. Beginning in the late 1800s, the Haida territory, economy and self-governance was usurped by colonial systems such as Indian Reserves and discriminatory regulations. Haida people approved a Constitution and established an elected Council of the Haida Nation in the early 1980s to represent all people of Haida ancestry. Negotiation of modern treaties and agreements are slowly proceeding, supported by recent Canadian reconciliation approaches such as recognition of rights (Jones et al. 2021a, b). In the Haida case, negotiating interim agreements and management plans for land and marine spaces was catalysed by a mix of Haida political actions and litigation including a court case to prove title to Haida Gwaii that was launched in 2002. The Haida Nation worked with the federal and provincial governments and other coastal Indigenous Nations on integrated ocean management plansFootnote 3 and currently co-manages several large protected areas with marine components.
The Haida Gwaii Marine Plan, endorsed by the Haida Nation and Province of BC, is an example of this collaborative work. It guides marine activities and outlines a future scenario for Haida Gwaii that focuses on a conservation and local economy path:
Twenty years from now Haida Gwaii has followed a path that prioritizes culture, healthy intact ecosystems and sustainable communities. Marine use and development are balanced with high environmental protection standards and a comprehensive network of marine protected areas. Marine industries generally have low environmental impacts and are consistent with the distinct Islands lifestyle. Community growth is based on a diversity of activities that tap into a growing global demand for sustainable seafood and a unique visitor experience (Haida Nation and Province of BC 2015: 32–33).
The Marine Plan identifies about 20% of Haida ocean territory as candidates for marine protection. External drivers and pressures such as climate change and global markets are expected to have a significant impact on the future of Haida Gwaii. Internal drivers include out-migration of youth and its negative effects on community infrastructure such as schools, health care services and transportation. Potential economic opportunities include shellfish aquaculture, increased local benefits from commercial and recreational fisheries, marine-based tourism, and renewable energy development such as wind or tidal power. Fisheries was not fully addressed in the Marine Plan since it lies outside Provincial jurisdiction. The Marine Plan includes detailed objectives and strategies that align with the future scenario. The plan will soon have been implemented for 5 years and is making significant progress.
In general, governance structures for Haida Gwaii plans are based on consensus decision-making. Similar collaborative governance structures are being applied at the Large Ocean Management Area scale for initiatives such as Marine Protected Area (MPA) network planning and shipping and marine protection in partnership with Canada and nearby Indigenous Nations (Jones et al. 2021a). Haida ethics and values (Jones et al. 2010; Jones & Williams-Davidson 2000) and insights from traditional knowledge are incorporated into marine and protected area management plans. Collaborative planning and management are meaningful steps towards reconciliation of Haida and State responsibility which is continuing through negotiation as well as litigation.
Next, we travel up through the Bering Strait into the Arctic and down to Baffin Bay, Greenland.
Attu, Greenland, contributed via Per Ole (Nuunoq) Frederiksen and Halfdan Pedersen
Attu is north of the Arctic Circle, situated on Greenland’s west coast (see Fig. 4). Over several thousand years, different Inuit-related groups have inhabited Greenland with the present population largely descending from a North American immigration a little over 1000 years ago. A Norsemen group also entered southern Greenland then and stayed until the mid-fifteenth century. A Danish-Norwegian pastor started a Christian mission in 1721 and this is the time referred to as the beginning of the colonial period. In 1774, Denmark closed Greenland off by establishing KGH, Den Kongelige Grønlandske Handel, subsequently prohibiting any development of the people and country. A Danish commercial post was established to the south of Attu in 1759, later called "Illuerunnerit", Gamle Egedesminde, for targeting local species. However, the Danes there died of hunger and disease in the terribly cold winters and the post was moved north of Attu to Aasiaat in 1763. In 1818 Attu was established as a commercial post.
Unknown to many Greenland and Danish people, in the latter half of the 1940s the UN demanded Denmark develop Greenland and to lift the development ban which she did in 1950 (Olesen 2019). During the 1950s and 60 s many habitations in the broader Attu area were compulsorily abandoned and most of the people moved to Attu itself. In the 60 s, Attu people harvested fish alongside the Danes and living from hunting almost became a historic relic. Danish regulatory and societal structure was exported to Greenland and imposed by short-term contracted Danes. Greenlanders had no participation nor authority in their own community (Pedersen 2019, personal communication, 13 November).
In 1964, the Danish government proposed a ban on the use of the Greenlandic language. The bill was renounced after 3 years due to immense opposition and this instigated the mission to achieve self-governance, the Greenlandic People call themselves Kalaallit and their name for their country today is Kalaallit Nunaat. Home Rule was introduced in 1979 to recognise that “the permanent residents in Greenland have fundamental rights to Greenland’s natural resources” (Danish Government 1978) and Greenland’s self-government was introduced in 2009 (Danish Government 2009). However, Denmark continues not to recognise the Kalaallit people’s rights to, or knowledge of, their natural resources. In the 1960s, the Attu population increased from about 50 to 400 and remained stable until 1990. At this time the Greenlandic government promoted education and training, and the Attu population fell to c.200, due to a lack of jobs for highly educated people. This also affected the number of full-time fishers and hunters, and now there are only about 30 full-time fishers and hunters left in Attu.
Locals have in-depth knowledge of Greenland’s climate, such as atmosphere and water temperatures, ice melts, and effects on fishing and hunting resources. The Attu elders recollect ancestral stories handed down from one generation to the next. For example, every 50 summers and winters or so Greenland became warmer or colder. They noticed that the inland icecap kept a steady position until the beginning of the 1500’s. From then, the melting of the icecap quickened, and they noticed during their summer reindeer harvesting the first mountain peaks protruding through the icecap and lakes near the icecap had grown bigger and some had become part of the sea, for example Tasiusarsuaq cove in the Naternaq area (Nuunoq 2019, personal communication, 13 November).
The post-1950 impact of Denmark control on Greenland is described as a technocratic tyranny, which is leading to a cultural genocide. Scientific reports and local observations are inconsistent, resulting in hunting regulations which are also inconsistent with climate change effects on species availability. Greenland halibut and narwhal Total Allowable Catch (TAC) limits suggest the species are rapidly declining, whereas small-scale fishers are harvesting the TAC in unprecedentedly quick times. The regulations are effectively imposing bans on hunting and fishing practices. For example, due to earlier river melts, Arctic char are migrating to sea and fattening earlier (from April to July/August), where the harvest season doesn’t open until June 15 before closing on August 15 (Nuunoq 2019, personal communication, 13 November). This endangers winter supply harvesting, as does the walrus season which ends when the walrus arrives in the Ittoqqortoormiit (Scoresby Sound area) in east Greenland; and the thick-billed murre bird hunting season (Nuunoq 2019, personal communication, 13 November), which now begins after the bird has left the area due to climate change (Merkel et al. 2016).
People have lived in the Attu area a long time prior to colonization because here there is an abundance of seals, walruses, belugas and narwhals, Arctic char, birds, and halibut, among other things, up to this very day. In 2030 the Greenland community wants to put local food products first before resorting to importing food, with local arrangements developed to facilitate this lifestyle, based on local conditions, know-how, mentality, history, and knowledge. They expect their knowledge to be acknowledged by others, regardless of position, rank, creed, colour, ethnicity, and nationality. Attu people will continue to invite scientists to work with them to create regulations, based on their mutual knowledge.
Next, we move southeast through the North Sea and into the Baltic.
Coastal and Forest Finnish Communities, contributed by Tero Mustonen, Kaisu Mustonen and Eero Murtomäki
The Baltic Sea, today the world's most polluted inland sea, is home of many Traditional and Indigenous cultures. Whilst the Sámi are internationally best known as the Indigenous peoples of the Nordic space, the small nations of the Baltic and coastal communities have preserved unique non-Indo-European relations and cultures with their sea areas until today (Tunon 2018). Some of them, such as Livonians and Izors, also have domestic status of Indigenous peoples.
The UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Ecologically and Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) lists nine important sub-areas of the Baltic. Five of them are discussed here from the point of Traditional and Indigenous relations with the sea (West Estonian Archipelago, Åland Sea and Archipelago Sea of Finland, Kvarken Archipelago, Eastern Gulf of Finland and Northern Bothnian Bay) (EBSA 2018).
Many coastal Finnish and Swedish communities maintain old ways of maritime coastal cultures, for example in the Kvarken-High Coast World Heritage Area of glacial rebound (Mustonen and Mäkinen 2004; Tunon 2018). The island of Maa-Kalla has full autonomy and its own customary laws, even to this day, separate from the laws of Finland and other European countries (EBSA 2018).
Maa-Kalla is a small island in the northern Baltic that arose from the sea due to glacial rebound some centuries ago. It was used as a seasonal base of Baltic herring fishery by the coastal Finnish fishers and family. In 1771 the Swedish King (ruler of Finland at the time) provided the island with full autonomy so that fishermen themselves can rule and decide on all issues of the island. This continues to this day (EBSA 2018) so that Maa-Kalla island is technically owned by the state of Finland but the state has no power—only the traditional customary ruling body consisting of the fishing families. Maa-Kalla is therefore a rare fully autonomous space outside the EU and national legislation built on traditional governance and seasonal occupancy of the island.
The Baltic coastal Indigenous and Traditional communities have also been influenced by the large geopolitical and socio-historical events of the past 100–200 years, most significantly by the Second World War and subsequent modernisation, where the sea was a crucial operational theatre for participating naval powers. Subsequently the Baltic was part of the Iron Curtain separating the Soviet-controlled states from the Neutral countries (Sweden, Finland) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) states (Germany, Denmark). This has made its specific footprint and marking on how Traditional and Indigenous knowledge has survived or been lost, preserved and/or is being revitalized.
In some parts of the Baltic, we need to acknowledge that the traditional maritime culture has been lost, probably permanently, due to the forced relocations of the Soviet era, modernisation and other reasons. In such cases, the examples from the documented practices and cultures may serve as important and stimulating points for present-day action and cultural heritage. Elias Raussi (1966), a tradesman from the community of Virolahti, in Bay of Finland, witnessed fishing families self-organising each year out on the islands for the herring harvests in the early 1800s. This endemic fishery (Mustonen 2014) and locations of harvests were decided by consensus and on a rotational basis so that no one person or family could dominate the harvest locations and each community had a chance to equally participate in the harvest of the fish in their turn in their customary governance.
Revitalising governance of the Baltic to recognize community rights and participation is still relevant today despite its increased role as an oil and cargo transportation route, especially from Russia, out to the global markets. The ethics of the traditional systems, such as the Merikarvia and Pori as well as Kvarken region communities (Mustonen and Mäkinen 2004) could be included in the co-governance of marine protected areas and cultural heritage plans of the Baltic. Equity and justice issues are still very relevant in the context of the Izhorian plight of the oil terminals and environmental pollution of the Baltic on the Russian sector (EBSA 2018). This small nation could still be supported to preserve its homeland and unique way of life. Under Russian legislation for example the concept of traditional land (and marine) use [The law on Territories of Traditional Nature Use TTNU, Зaкoн o тeppитopияx тpaдициoннoгo пpиpoдoпoльзoвaния (TTHУ)] could be implemented to preserve the Izhorian coastline and community rights.
Another region-wide equity issue pertains to the rights of the small-scale fishers across the Baltic, where the prevention of access to quotas and inability of young fishers to enter into the trade is being challenged by the present-day governance of the Baltic, favouring large trawling fleets and industrial practices. This also means that traditional knowledge will be discontinued if there are no new fishers.
All across the Baltic, including traditional knowledge in community-based monitoring and baselines, especially regarding the eutrophication and other pollution events on the coasts and at sea, could be a measure that would reform and improve the work of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM, https://helcom.fi), the state-driven international cooperation on the environmental protection of the Baltic (EBSA 2018; Tero Mustonen et al. 2018). The UN-led EBSA work to identify crucial marine areas of the Baltic, recently identified locations and steps to include traditional knowledge and community-based monitoring into their processes (EBSA 2018).
We now head over land southeast to arrive on an island in Taiwan.
Pongso no Tao, Taiwan, contributed via Sutej Hugu
We call ourselves ‘Tao,’ with a population of about 4300 people. Pongso no Tao (literally meaning the ‘Homeland of Tao people’) is a small northern volcanic outlier of the Batanes Islands southeast of Taiwan (now labelled ‘Lanyu’ or ‘Orchid Island’ on the official atlas). There are six independent tribal communities, each with origin myths and legendary stories of their own. Nurtured by the richness of the Large Marine Ecosystem of the Kuroshio Ocean Current, the Tao people have lived ‘the original affluent society’ with their comprehensive traditional ecological knowledge and practices for millennia. These non-hierarchical and unspecialized egalitarian tribal communities are without chiefs or ruling elders, but functional leaders responsible for various production, construction, and ceremony activities or events, with only a complementary sexual division of labour within households. Tao people follow their unique time reckoning system called ‘ahephep no tao’ (evening of people), which is an original eco-calendar to keep track of both monthly lunar cycles and the annual solar cycle.
Pongso no Tao has been colonized by numerous foreign powers since the 19th century, most recently the Chinese Nationalist government which attempted to assimilate the Tao people into their culture (Arrigo et al. 2002; Hugu 2012). Despite numerous attempts in recent history to assimilate the community, the Tao people have remained strong although their shift from a system that was once that of a vigorous and optimized Indigenous marine culture to one of unnatural poverty has had numerous impacts on the Tao people (Arrigo et al. 2002).
Since 2010 we have started to build three knowledge bases. The first is Tao Cultural Digital Archive, second is the Pongso no Tao Tribal Geospatial Information Systems Database and third is the Tao People Ethnobiology Knowledge Base (Hugu 2012). In conjunction with the three knowledge bases we have established Tribal Heritage Keepers Groups for elders from each patriarchal lineage to join families from the six tribes on the island. As an alternative to modern capitalist development and an extractive economy, these groups provide guidelines of tribal governance for island management for future generations (Hugu 2012, personal communication, 12 November).
Following the eco-calendar along with its ecological and phenological knowledge contents there are three major ceremonies to initiate each season with critical ethic value. One of the ceremonies is mivanoa for rayon season, all men, young and old, should gather on the community beach to have a ritual of summoning the flying fish school back, and reconfirming their inter-species pact between the flying fishes and Tao people from the ancient time, to implement the rights of nature and order of the living world. From the mythology of the Tao people, that was the ancestor of the noblest black-winged flying fishes teaching the ancestors of the Tao people how to appropriately harvest and treat the flying fishes for survival of both species. In the same story, there is the first account of the arrangement of works and ceremonies all around the year for Tao people (Hugu 2012, personal communication, 12 November).
In the Tao marine governance institution, rayon season is for the fishing of migratory species only. Fishing on coral reefs is completely prohibited during this period. Fishing of flying fish is stopped when they come into the peak time for reproduction. Whilst in the other seasons the coral reef fishery is opened. They are however divided into three categories of oyod (good), rahet (bad) and jingangana (not-for-eating), this is to spread and mitigate the pressure on the food chain. Oyod fish are for women and children whilst rahet is for men and elders only. Less valued species are considered rahet and only for men, with some species in rahet labelled kakanen no rarakeh, which is only for elders (Hugu 2012, personal communication, 14 November).
The Tao worldview is expected to explicitly and implicitly guide game rules for daily life and the principles for social cultural praxis.
We then travel further south into the Pacific Ocean.
Ōpōtiki, Te-Ika-a-Maui—Te Ika a Maui me Te Wai Pounamu (New Zealand), contributed by Kimberley Maxwell
New Zealand (NZ) is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean-Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. Polynesian ancestors migrated to these islands onboard multiple waka (canoes) from across the Pacific from c.1200AD (Hogg et al. 2003). Those ancestors brought with them their knowledge, skills and culture, and then adapted it to better suit the sub-tropical to sub-Antarctic NZ context. NZ Māori is the collective term for the Indigenous members of the 100 + iwi (tribes) and 800 + hapū (sub-tribes) of NZ (Te Puni Kokiri (Ministry of Maori Development), 2018). “Indigenous” is a descriptor used by most Māori and Pasifika scholars to position themselves within the postcolonial era (Smith et al. 2016).
From the late 1700s European whalers, sealers, missionaries, and settlers began to colonise NZ. In 1840, more than 500 Māori leaders signed the Treaty of Waitangi with British Crown representatives, which initiated the formation of the NZ government (Kaiser et al. 2019). The principles and history of the Treaty of Waitangi are fundamental to understanding NZ’s Māori-Crown relationships.
During the time of writing this contribution I am working on behalf of one of my Iwi, Te Whakatōhea, who are located around Ōpōtiki township, in the eastern Bay of Plenty, North Island (Te-Ika-a-Maui), NZ. Therefore, I share the Whakatōhea context in relation to the blue economy. There are multiple (± 6) hapū (sub-tribes) associated with Te Whakatōhea. Whakatōhea were a prospering nation at the turn of the 18th century. During colonisation my ancestor and Whakatōhea chief, Mokomoko, was wrongfully imprisoned and hanged for the murder of Reverend Carl Volkner, the fertile lands of our tribe were confiscated, and we were ordered onto a reservation in the corner of our traditional territory. As a child, I bore witness to the Government pardon of Mokomoko, and as an adult I witnessed the Mokomoko pardon being passed into law. The wrongful imprisonment and murder had dire consequences on our people’s socio-economic wellbeing ever since. However, Whakatōhea have remained culturally strong within their relatively ecologically healthy territories and are in the 20 + year process of settling our grievances with the Crown, while simultaneously planning for a prosperous future.
As an Iwi we have a vision to ‘be the food basket of the world’ in the broadest sense of the meaning—to nourish people’s physical, spiritual, and mental well-being, now and into the future. This vision is based on a Whakatōhea narrative about our ancestor, Tāpuikakahu, who uttered the words, ‘te kai hoki i Waiaua.Footnote 4’ The Waiaua River is one of our ancestral rivers and it has long been an important food basket for Whakatōhea. Mārearea (Galaxiid spp.), eels, flounder, tītīko (mudsnails), pipi (Paphies spp.) and other resources are bountiful in the Waiaua estuary. Our customary fisheries, commercial offshore aquaculture venture and kaitiakitanga (reciprocal relationship of care between ourselves and the environment), are an important part of achieving this vision. Although our lands were taken, Whakatōhea are developing a marine and coastal area plan to characterise and define how we will manage activities in this part of our territory, in collaboration with external entities, including our tribal neighbours.
We will also need to mitigate the risks of climate change, such as increased marine heatwaves on our rohe moana (marine territory) while maintaining cultural integrity. Marine heatwaves have the potential to stress our shellfish species, and potentially reduce recruitment. Our harvesting activities need to be adjusted to address the impacts of these major stressors, for example, by changing the mussel catch limits and by growing mussels deeper in the water column if the water is cooler there.
At the end of 2019, Whakaari (White Island) erupted during a tourist excursion to the island (Graham-McLay 2019). Many lives were lost and the eastern Bay of Plenty tribes, including Whakatōhea, placed a rāhui (temporary prohibition of take) on the sea and coast south-west of the Whakaari Island for over two weeks out of respect (Te Runanga o Ngati Awa, 2019). This halted mussel harvesting on the farm, which was due to take place in the area, and all coastal activities except for the search and rescue. This rāhui was adhered to and reflects the importance of Māori cultural practices above economic risks, better known as cultural bottom lines. This scenario highlighted the need for Iwi to discuss their priorities relating to practicing values in the marine space.
This case study demonstrates how cultural practices can be continued regardless of whether they are legislated or not if the community continues to practice and honour them.
A short trip across the Tasman Sea and we reach the island continent of Australia.
Lutruwita & Quandamooka Country, Australia, contributed via Dean Greeno, Jamie Graham-Blair and Mibu Fischer
According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, there are eight major climate zones across Australia (https://www.abcb.gov.au/Resources/Tools-Calculators/Climate-Zone-Map-Australia-Wide), ranging across those zones are hundreds of First Nations Australians (http://nationalunitygovernment.org/pdf/aboriginal-australia-map.pdf). With this geographical variance in climate, so too are there variances amongst the nations in lores, beliefs and management of the lands, waterways, and skies. This makes for one complex system for the present-day colonial government to understand. Lutruwita sits in a globally recognised hot spot for climate change (Pecl et al. 2019), the impacts that the Palawa People are seeing around their coasts is shifting fast and concerns many of the old people.
Gathering shells was a fun activity because the beach was an extension of our backyard and playground, and we were attracted by their colour and shape. As kids it was part of a natural activity as we ran along with Mum though, as I came to learn, it was also an introduction to an important part of our culture (Greeno 2014).
The importance of connection to country is reflected by renowned artist and Palawa Truwana Elder Aunty Lola Greeno in the statement above. Her experience represents the intrinsic nature of the relationship that many First Nations Australians have with country. It also shows how her deep understanding of the maireener shellsFootnote 5 has allowed her to notice changes in their abundance. What is causing these changes is unknown at present by the local community, but they speculate it is linked with climate change. The importance that maireener shells have to the Palawa community is immense, the contemporary use of marine shell necklaces goes beyond economic purposes, the shells are a link to culture.
Gathering shells is an important practice that is continued on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island, QLD), however these shells are for food. Eugaries (Plebidonax deltoides) are a significant cultural resource and food staple combined with other shellfish species for the Quandamooka People, with the entire coastline of Minjerribah and Moorgumpin (Moreton Island, QLD) once covered in towering middensFootnote 6 (Cope 2020; Hall 1984; Hall & Bowen 1989; Moore 2011). Connections to marine species and habitats are important sources of nutritional, emotional, spiritual, and cultural health for coastal and seagoing First Nations Australians. Quandamooka People were recognised as being the Traditional Custodians of their lands and sea in 2011 by the Federal Government after a 16 year battle ("Delaney on behalf of the Quandamooka People v State of Queensland," ). Part of this agreement has meant that management of some lands and coastal waters is back in the hands of Traditional Custodians. As a result the Quandamooka People have numerous Traditional Custodian Rangers, who work on country to conserve, maintain and connect to the land and sea (Fischer et al. 2019).
Quandamooka People have been caring for country for over 21,000 years. There are traditional narratives about life before the last sea level rise 8000 years ago (Lee et al. 2009; Machado, 2014; Stephens and Sharp 2009). These types of narratives are not unique to Quandamooka, there are traditional narratives, lores and beliefs tied to landscapes that were lost by the rising tides around Australia (Nunn and Reid 2015). These histories tell stories of human survival through climate events, which can only suggest that there is much to be learnt from First Nations Australians about adapting to a changing climate.