Indigenous peoples of North America, Australia, and New Zealand have a long tradition of harvesting freshwater animals. Over generations of reliance and subsistence harvesting, Indigenous peoples have acquired a profound understanding of these freshwater animals and ecosystems that have become embedded within their cultural identity. We have identified trans-Pacific parallels in the cultural significance of several freshwater animal groups, such as eels, other finfish, bivalves, and crayfish, to Indigenous peoples and their understanding and respect for the freshwater ecosystems on which their community survival depends. In recognizing such cultural connections, we found that non-Indigenous peoples can appreciate the deep significance of freshwater animals to Indigenous peoples and integrate Indigenous stewardship and Indigenous ecological knowledge into effective comanagement strategies for sustainable freshwater fisheries, such as Indigenous rangers, research partnerships, and Indigenous Protected Areas. Given that many of these culturally significant freshwater species also play key ecological roles in freshwater ecosystems, their recognition and prioritization in management and monitoring approaches should help sustain the health and well-being of both the social and ecological components of freshwater ecosystems.
Noble, M, Duncan, P, Perry, D, prosper, K, Rose, D, Schnierer, S, Tipa, G, Williams, E, Woods, R & Pittock, J 2016, 'Culturally significant fisheries: keystones for management of freshwater social-ecological systems', Ecology and Society, vol. 21, no. 2.