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Resource Ecology & Fisheries Management (REFM) Division

Economics & Social Sciences Research Program

Alaska Native Traditional Environmental Knowledge Project

"Traditional Environmental Knowledge (TEK) in Federal Natural Resource Management Agencies" is the theme of a special issue of the journal Practicing Anthropology (v. 27, no. 1) edited by Dr. Jennifer Sepez and UW graduate student Heather Lazrus. The issue features two articles from NOAA contributors, as well as articles by (or about) other federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In the special issue, an article by Jennifer Isť and Susan Abbott-Jamieson of NMFS describes the Local Fisheries Knowledge Pilot Project, which takes place in two lobstering communities in Maine. The project involves high school students in collecting cultural, environmental, and historical knowledge from local fishing families. Interviews and information gathered by participants are posted on the project website, The project has applied for funding to expand to communities in Alaska and North Carolina next year.

In another article in this issue, applications of the Alaska Native Traditional Environmental Knowledge Database were critically examined by Lazrus and Sepez based on interviews with intended users at the AFSC and elsewhere. Comprised of information from pre-existing sources in the literature, the database was a partial response to public comments about the lack of TEK in the Draft Groundfish Programmatic Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (PSEIS). Lazrus and Sepez review ways in which authors of the revised PSEIS found the database helpful and the challenges they faced using the information.

Lazrus and Sepez discuss several issues surrounding how TEK is compiled and cited in agency documents. Because it is passed from one generation to another, TEK can lend a great deal of place-specific temporal depth to scientific investigations that may only have data for a short period of time. Such temporal depth lends historical perspective to environmental phenomena and can facilitate the construction of baselines or indicate rates of change. It can also point to issues that may not have been considered by the agency. However, TEK offers very localized information that does not always correspond to the geographic scope of regional agency interests.

Additionally, the Alaska Native Traditional Environmental Knowledge Database does not offer users an easy way to assess the authority of the information source, so it may be difficult to judge the validity of a claim. The article discusses the ways in which TEK and scientific investigation have different paradigms that entail different ways of observing and drawing conclusions about how the world works. This disparity may at times complicate applying information from both paradigms to a single issue. On the other hand, this may also lead to a more multidimensional examination of an issue and a more robust analysis. Of course, ethical issues arise when expert information is taken from a community without addressing issues of compensation and comanagement of resources.

Lazrus and Sepez also discuss the problem of treating TEK as a series of facts or observations that can be extracted from cultural context. Without the context in which they are developed and understood, fragments of information may be misinterpreted or misapplied. Despite the challenges, NOAA scientists were generally very interested in understanding and incorporating TEK in agency efforts to analyze and manage North Pacific marine resources.

Other articles in the issue discuss understanding Huna Tlingit traditional harvest management techniques for gull eggs in Glacier Bay National Park, incorporating Swinomish cultural values into wetland valuations, integrating TEK into subsistence fisheries management in Alaska, considering traditional tribal lifeways in EPA decision making, conserving wild medicinal plants that have commercial value, and including TEK in planning processes for the National Petroleum Reserve.

The collection of articles conclude with a cautionary commentary from Preston Hardison of the Indigenous Biodiversity Information Network about international protocols, government-to-government relationships, rules of disclosure for tribal proprietary information, and the spiritual contexts of knowledge production and knowledge sharing. The issue is a great source of information on TEK program possibilities and lessons learned for federal resource scientists and managers interested in incorporating traditional environmental knowledge into their work.

By Jennifer Sepez and Heather Lazrus

Stock Assessment and Fisheries Evaluation Report and Data Support for Stakeholders

Terry Hiaat has begun producing the tables for the 2005 Economic Status Report in the Stock Assessment and Fisheries Evaluation Report (SAFE), which involves acquiring the necessary data sets from the Alaska Region and from AKFIN and updating the computer programs that generate the tables. As of this date, all of the tables that do not rely on Commercial Operators Annual Report data (which typically are available toward the end of summer) have been completed. Reports on discards, prohibited-species bycatch, and fleet composition in the groundfish fisheries of Alaska have also been prepared for the Ecosystems Considerations chapter of the SAFE.

By Terry Hiatt

Summer Interns

Daniel Willard and Harrison Fell, both Ph.D. students in the Department of Economics at the University of Washington, will be working in ESSRP as student interns this summer. Daniel will be assisting Dan Lew on several ongoing data collection projects. Harrison will be working on his dissertation, which focuses on applied market analysis for the pollock fishery. Harrison was awarded the NMFS/Sea Grant Fellowship in Marine Resource Economics, a fellowship formerly held by both Ron Felthoven and Alan Haynie (who subsequently became ESSRP employees).

By Ron Felthoven

Economic Data Collection Program Begins in Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Crab Fisheries

In May, hundreds of economic data reports (EDRs) were mailed out to current and former BSAI crab fishery harvesters and processors. The purpose of the economic data collection is to aid the NPFMC and NMFS in assessing the success of the BSAI crab rationalization program and to develop amendments necessary to mitigate any unintended consequences. The EDRs, containing questions regarding cost, revenue, ownership, and employment, are initially being used to collect historic, baseline information from the years 1998, 2001, and 2004. However, the EDRs will also be collected annually from this year forward for all harvesting and processing sectors. The data will be used to study the economic impacts of the rationalization program on harvesters, processors and communities. Participation in the data collection program is mandatory for all participants in the crab fisheries.

By Ron Felthoven


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