Should a sockeye salmon enter a fishing net or be left in stream to feed the grizzlies with which the Wuikinuxv First Nation have an enduring relationship? According to the Wuikinuxv, and drawing on recent work together, both humans and bears will be considered in salmon management.
´n`a´nakila is the Wuikinuxv principle that roughly translates as ‘to look ahead for someone’. As the collapsed Wuikinuxv (Rivers Inlet) sockeye run rebuilds, the Wuikinuxv Nation is determined to align their Food, Social, and Ceremonial harvest with sustainability targets that allocate enough salmon to support a thriving grizzly population.
Recent research in which Raincoast’s Applied Conservation Science lab helped design a harvest strategy that looks ahead for Wuikinuxv bears. A quantitative analysis of long-term salmon and bear data revealed that bears could maintain high (salmon-fueled) densities if sockeye harvests were about 10% less than the ‘optimum yield’. Optimum yield is a typical fisheries science target that does not consider ecosystem recipients of salmon returns.
A culturally-enlightened and ecosystem-based approach is unprecedented in modern-day salmon management.
Bears and people – similarly shaped by the landscape
Knowing that bears and people have shared resources and landscapes for millennia, we reasoned that there might be a genetic signal to such a deep relationship. Working with the Nuxalk, Haíɫzaqv, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Gitga’at, and Wuikinuxv First Nations, our recent analysis revealed three genetic groups of bears, which spatially aligned with Indigenous language families in the region. Notably, the borders of the bear groups did not align with management designations as identified by the provincial government, which divides an otherwise genetically continuous population into two.
Our work draws on our lab’s values
These two recent projects highlight a couple recent and tangible ways in which our research supports not only human-wildlife coexistence but also renewed self-determination by Indigenous governments. Indigenous nations craft evidence-based policy to protect the future of their lands, waters, and resources. Our partnered research complements their own local knowledges to form needed evidence.
Doing work in this way draws on our lab values, which includes commitments to evidence-based policy, environmental and social justice, mutually beneficial partnerships, and informed advocacy.
In 2022, we look forward to continuing a legacy of providing evidence that helps to inform and empower local governments that safeguard nature.
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