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UBC Theses and Dissertations

When the fishing’s gone : understanding how fisheries management affects the informal economy and social capital in the Nuxalk Nation Burke, Cynthia Lenore


In the field of resource management, the importance of understanding how policy affects people is now recognized as a fundamental aspect of sustainable management. This perspective underlies this study of how management policies within the British Columbia commercial fisheries have affected the Nuxalk Nation, located on the central coast of British Columbia. Though their contemporary participation in the commercial fisheries has been extensive, this community has witnessed a substantial decline in participation, roughly a 95% decline since 1953. Today about 12 community members hold commercial fishing licenses. Findings suggest that the virtual collapse of the local commercial fishery extends well beyond the visible losses such as employment, fishing boats, and related income. At a social and cultural level, the Nuxalkmc have witnessed changes in their ability to access and exchange traditional resources, engage in social and kinship networks, and perform acts of generalized reciprocity so important to social capital and resilience elsewhere. This study examines these dimensions by using theories of social capital and the informal economy as tools for unearthing the less visible and unaccounted losses in the Nuxalk Nation. Findings call for a reconsideration of the priority paid to direct versus indirect losses (wherein the latter may be more consequential than the former), and where the cultural and social consequences in particular may constitute what is elsewhere referred to as a ‘cascading’ loss. This study employs two primary research methods. First, we undertake a comprehensive review of relevant fisheries policies and historic information to evaluate the distinction between commercial and food fisheries. Second, semi-structured interviews with forty-one members of the Nuxalk Nation were conducted gather local articulations about social, cultural and economic changes associated with decreased involvement in the commercial fisheries.

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