Worldwide fisheries resources have been declining, strongly compromising global food security. The burgeoned development of hydropower in the past centuries and the concomitant effects on catchment connectivity has been considered one of the major threats to worldwide aquatic biodiversity. For indigenous people this loss also represents loss of historical and cultural fisheries resources.
Maintaining and restoring fisheries sustainability, reducing environmental impact and degradation is currently a big challenge which involves identifying critical drivers and future challenges and suggesting new science, policies and interventions. This process has mainly been based on western scientist advice, relying on the most defensible information, but has often been compromised by limited data and results that are available to the public. This can lead to errors and misconceptions, which negatively affects the development of strategies and solutions to improve river restoration and river connectivity. This is the case of the development of fish passage structures for non-salmonid species, where design criteria are commonly based on the ecological and biomechanical requirements of salmonids species, due to the limited information existent for non-salmonids. This transferability of knowledge has strongly failed in providing efficient fish passage for non-salmonids species, compromising the sustainability of such species. Better knowledge on the ecological requirements and characteristics of local populations of the target species is needed to help improve design criteria for the passage of the target species. Indigenous people can play a key role in this process by helping to provide such knowledge.
Indigenous people attach enormous cultural and spiritual significance to landscapes and feel responsible to care for their cultural landscapes, biodiversity and places of particular cultural significance. Integration of indigenous knowledge based on life experiences and cultural and traditional environmental practices in conservation will help improve the quality of scientific advice.
This engagement will also increase mutual trust and respect, fundamental foundations to establish meaningful and sustainable relationships and sound working partnerships with a strong impact on future ecohydraulic projects, river management and environmental conservation.
Herein, we present the IWISH for Fish (International Western and Indigenous Science Hub for Fish) network which pursues the exchange of cultural and traditional knowledge on fisheries and rivers between indigenous people and western scientists to improve fisheries management and conservation of aquatic systems. We plan to invite community leaders from around the globe to share and discuss their personal connections with fish and rivers. We will also organise meetings, workshops and academic programs to facilitate this dialogue. For more information, please visit: https://www.nina.no/english/Fields-of-research/Projects/IWISH-for-fish
“Nothing about us, with us” – Phil Duncan