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New sea garden story map unites Indigenous mariculture practices across the Pacific

February 17, 2022

Indigenous People have been stewarding the ocean for thousands of years. Knowledge of their ancestral mariculture practices is being revitalized across the Pacific and information about these cultivation practices has been collected in a new interactive and “living” story map of stewarded sea gardens across the Pacific launched today.

The story map was created by the Pacific Sea Garden Collective - an international collaboration of Indigenous knowledge holders, university researchers, community practitioners and artists.

Simon Fraser University resource & environmental management professor Anne Salomon was inspired by renowned fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly, who told Salomon that she could elevate the importance of clam gardens by placing them within a global context. Salomon included a synthesis of Indigenous mariculture into her graduate class on social-ecological resilience. The students came up with the idea of an interactive story map.

Salomon then reached out to Melissa Poe, an environmental anthropologist at Washington Sea Grant, about incorporating the story map project into the Indigenous Aquaculture Collaborative Network, which is a community of practice consisting of Pacific-region Sea Grant offices; Northwest Tribes and First Nations, Native Hawaiian and Indigenous communities; and organizations and universities working to advance Indigenous aquaculture.

The collaboration brought Salomon’s graduate class, including masters student Heather Earle, to Hawai’i to learn about and assist in the restoration of a fish pond.

After graduation, Earle co-led the design and creation of the story map, along with Salomon, Poe and SFU archaeologist Dana Lepofsky, which synthesizes sea gardens from around the world including B.C. “There are various types of sea gardens off the B.C. coast including, stone fish traps, clam gardens and octopus houses in Haida Gwaii - where Haida ancestors created these intertidal ponds using mounds of rock that attract octopus to live in them, which they can then harvest,” Earle says.

Naw náaGalang at T’aanuu Llnagaay, Daryl Fedje stands next to the canoe run - Photo by Rob Commisso, courtesy of Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve.

Kii’iljuus Barbara Wilson, a Haida Matriarch and Indigenous scholar from the Cumshewa Eagle Clan collaborated with the team to highlight the octopus houses of Haida Gwaii.

“In this time of climate change, it’s really important to acknowledge Indigenous mariculture as conservation and recognize First Nations governance over our land and resources,” says Wilson. “It’s time to put the library back together and learn about all the things my ancestors did to ensure that there was enough fish and octopus – looking after and respecting the environment.”

“We managed to live in the world for thousands of years without the massive ecological destruction that’s happening now. It’s very much about not taking more than you need,” Wilson adds.

Story map collaborator and SFU Indigenous scholar Skye Augustine spearheaded the restoration of clam gardens at two sites in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia with members of Hul’q’umi’num’ & W̱SÁNEĆ Coast Salish communities as part of her doctoral dissertation in Salomon’s lab.

“I think that one of the most important things about restoring these places is that it requires that we restore people’s relationships with them,” Augustine says. “It forces us to rethink humans as only having negative impacts on our ecosystem, and remember that for millennia we had really positive and reciprocal relationships with the places we belong to, and we can have those kinds of relationships once again.”

Ancestral clam garden on British Columbia’s Central Coast. Photo by Keith Holmes, Hakai Institute

Earle adds that a living story map is a unique and engaging way for everyone to learn more about sea gardens. “This is really just the beginning of synthesizing our knowledge of sea gardens across the Pacific and I think at this point we’ve barely scratched the surface,” adds Earle.

Visit Sea Gardens Across the Pacific: Reawakening Ancestral Mariculture Innovations to view the map and read more about sea gardens located off the B.C. coast, Alaska, Chile, Hawai’i and beyond.