Nav: Home

Indigenous collaboration and leadership key to managing sea otter population recovery

May 21, 2020

A new study highlights the need to engage Indigenous communities in managing sea otter population recovery to improve coexistence between humans and this challenging predator.

The sea otters' recovery along the northwest coast of North America presents a challenge for coastal communities because both otters and humans like to eat shellfish, such as sea urchins, crabs, clams and abalone. Expanding populations of sea otters and their arrival in new areas are heavily impacting First Nations and Tribes that rely on harvesting shellfish.

SFU lead author Jenn Burt says the study focused beyond the challenges to seek solutions going forward. "We documented Indigenous peoples' perspectives which illuminated key strategies to help improve sea otter management and overall coexistence with sea otters."

Most research focuses on how sea otter recovery greatly reduces shellfish abundance or expands kelp forests, rather than on how Indigenous communities are impacted, or how they are adapting to the returning sea otters' threat to their food security, cultural traditions, and livelihoods.

Recognizing that Indigenous perspectives were largely absent from dialogues about sea otter recovery and management, SFU researchers reached out to initiate the Coastal Voices collaboration.

Coastal Voices is a partnership with Indigenous leaders and knowledge holders representing 19 First Nations and Tribes from Alaska to British Columbia.

Based on information revealed in workshops, interviews, and multiple community surveys, SFU researchers and collaborating Indigenous leaders found that human-otter coexistence can be enabled by strengthening Indigenous governance authority and establishing locally designed, adaptive co-management plans for sea otters.

The study, published this week in People and Nature also suggests that navigating sea otter recovery can be improved by incorporating Indigenous knowledge into sea otter management plans, and building networks and forums for community discussions about sea otter and marine resource management.

"Our people actively managed a balanced relationship with sea otters for millennia," says co-author and Haida matriarch Kii'iljuus (Barbara Wilson), a recent SFU alumnus.

"Our work with Coastal Voices and this study helps show how those rights and knowledge need to be recognized and be part of contemporary sea otter management."

Anne Salomon, a professor in SFU's School of Resource and Environmental Management, co-authored the study and co-led the Coastal Voices research partnership.

"This research reveals that enhancing Indigenous people's ability to coexist with sea otters will require a transformation in the current governance of fisheries and marine spaces in Canada, if we are to navigate towards a system that is more ecologically sustainable and socially just," says Salomon.

Despite challenges, the authors say transformation is possible. They found that adaptive governance and Indigenous co-management of marine mammals exist in other coastal regions in northern Canada and the U.S. They suggest that increasing Indigenous leadership and Canadian government commitments to Reconciliation may provide opportunities for new approaches and more collaborative marine resource management.

Simon Fraser University

Related Sea Otters Articles:

In the absence of otters, climate warming leads to Aleutian Reef decline
Sea otters prey on urchins and keep their population in check.
Food from the sea
Demand for food is set to rise substantially in the coming decades, which raises a question: How well can the ocean fill the gap between current supply and future need?
A new look at deep-sea microbes
Microbes found deeper in the ocean are believed to have slow population turnover rates and low amounts of available energy.
Otters juggle stones when hungry, research shows
Hunger is likely to be the main driver of stone juggling in otters, new research has shown.
Sea otters, opossums and the surprising ways pathogens move from land to sea
A parasite known only to be hosted in North America by the Virginia opossum is infecting sea otters along the West Coast.
UCF study: Sea level rise impacts to Canaveral sea turtle nests will be substantial
The study examined loggerhead and green sea turtle nests to predict beach habitat loss at four national seashores by the year 2100.
A dam right across the North Sea
A 475-km-long dam between the north of Scotland and the west of Norway and another one of 160 km between the west point of France and the southwest of England could protect more than 25 million Europeans against the consequences of an expected sea level rise of several meters over the next few centuries.
A sea monster's genome
The giant squid is an elusive giant, but its secrets are about to be revealed.
Antibiotics from the sea
The team led by Prof. Christian Jogler of Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, has succeeded in cultivating several dozen marine bacteria in the laboratory -- bacteria that had previously been paid little attention.
What vision do we have for the deep sea?
The ocean hosts an inconceivable wealth of marine life, most of which remains unknown.
More Sea Otters News and Sea Otters Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.