ProjectA Critical Perspective on Bio-cultural Approaches to Conservation in Coastal Indigenous Settings
Many conservation and resource management projects involve aboriginal peoples. Hence, paradigms that respect their worldviews, cultures, institutions and aspirations must be developed for ethical, political and practical reasons; success of these projects often depends on their support. In parallel, concerns have been arising regarding the unprecedented loss affecting simultaneously global biological and cultural diversity. In this context, various conservation and resource management frameworks that combine biological and cultural protection have been proposed. To achieve bio-cultural conservation goals, these emphasize local participation, community-based management and use of local knowledge. We can however ask ourselves whether such approaches have actually changed conservation and resource management practices and if so to what extent, and whether aboriginal worldviews are really accommodated. My doctoral research aims at critically assessing bio-cultural approaches to conservation in indigenous coastal settings. With this research project I propose to explore the potential of current Marine Protected Area models, with particular attention paid to Canada, to accommodate biocultural conservation ideals, specifically with respect to indigenous communities. Biocultural conservation aims to protect simultaneously biological diversity and cultural diversity by embracing the complex and reciprocal relationships that exist between ecological systems and associated social systems. This approach is of particular interest to indigenous communities who often face pressures on both their customary territory and their culture. The potentially crucial role played by customary indigenous resource management institutions in achieving these ideals of biocultural conservation is of particular significance.