June 29th, 2012 – Kaitiakitanga
Hello POTV readers, I hope you are enjoying the summer months because down here it is coooold. It has been in the single digits! Well, that is in celsius… but still. First off, here are a few pictures of my winter adventures that are non-ocean related, but still might inspire a bit of outdoor appreciation. I knew if I wrote on the following topic there wouldn’t be any pictures to show about it, so enjoy the images before you dive into all the intimidating text!
Ok, now back down to sea-level…
After digesting Capt. Smith’s previous blog entry I felt I had to contribute to the discussion surrounding community involvement in fisheries, and for that matter, resource management. Capt. Smith is right to urge the recreational community to attend meetings and get involved with policy making as locals and professionals hold some of the best knowledge available on their specific resource… that is if they share it.
In my area down here, most of the discussions revolve around Lake Ellesmere, which is opened by loaders a couple times per year. Anything in the Lake flows directly into the ocean upon its opening, whether that is for several hours or a few days. This is an important fact not lost on the community. It also reminds us that whatever we do upstream will end up, eventually, in our oceans. Local input has timed these openings to allow for migration of species like flounder and eel to enter and leave the lake, even if it is for a short amount of time. This was only possible through local involvement in the lake opening process. As the Snapper fishery has changed in florida, so too has the fishery in this part of New Zealand. But, there are stories…
As I attempt to attend as many of the committee meetings in regards to policy creation surrounding the lake as possible, I have been able to visualize an ecosystem that existed twenty odd years ago that I would never see now. In brief talks with locals, from my car mechanic to university employees, they all describe their childhood days of wading in the clear water, catching eel and flounder, and just enjoying what the lake had to offer. Today, there are often no-swimming warnings and it would be difficult to see your hand in front of you if you were bold enough to take a swim. The point here is that these locals need to get involved as much as possible. The simple images that they can conjure in a short conversation are enough to get me excited about the possibilities for the lake/lagoon system in the future. These images are not found in government policies and meeting rooms, but in the minds of those who have actually experienced it. To hear the stories of abundant snapper and other fish in Florida certainly speaks to the capacity those Florida waters have to sustain life that we must not forget lived there. Those minds need to speak up or the following generations may fall prey to being accustomed to the current ecological norm.
Managing resources is difficult because implementing the same strategy in two locations could have drastically different results. Specific, science-informed, and inclusive plans are the best chance for a resource to recover or be sustainable, but the government can’t do all of that on its own. Nor, I think, would we want it to. Getting involved is essential in the process, and more and more research is showing the local, community based approach is often the most successful.
To get involved though, the community has to care enough to do it. Here in NZ, the Maori have a term called “kaitiakitanga” which is roughly translated as the idea of local stewardship of places with ecological and spiritual value. I would argue most of us who enjoy the outdoors find something spiritual in it, but surely even more see the benefits of stewardship in general. This idea is built into some policy, but it is more important to be built into the community responsible for the area. There is a sense of pride that we exude when we deal with our own homes, lawns, towns, cities, and even schools, but we need that same attitude to extend towards our resources and environment.
The answer to managing fisheries is somewhere between government policy and community involvement, so they both need to reach out and find the balance that is right for that location. I urge you to think about Capt. Smith’s comments, as well as my own. If you’re still not convinced, and you still think it’s a lost cause, consider this: you may have that last bit of knowledge to save a reef, you may have that one story to inspire the youth, or you may have that one vote that can set things in the right direction. But, no one will ever know if you don’t share it.
Whatever it is you’re trying to protect, go get involved!