Bering Sea Sub-Network: Project Summary Report 2015 (Aleut International Association).
Sutton, Olga (Olia)
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The BSSN II project provided a means for remote indigenous villages around the Bering Sea to communicate their observations about the environment and subsistence harvest. BSSN II brought together researchers and local residents in co-production of knowledge, which is place-based and relevant to societal needs. BSSN II observations were gathered in semi-struc- tured surveys with local residents in the eight partner communities. Surveying was purpo- sive and focused on surveying experienced hunters and fishermen and knowledgeable elders and gatherers. The surveys were conducted by local trained Community Research Assistants (CRAs). The survey instrument consisted of three questionnaires designed to capture obser- vations of the environmental change, baseline information and seasonal harvest observations. This research was conducted from 2009-2014 and was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, award numbers 0856774 and 0856305. This effort continues through the Commu- nity-based Observation Network for Adaptation and Security (CONAS). The key messages from this collaborative effort are: 1. Partnerships that engage indigenous communities, scientists and other organizations in the co-production of knowledge are essential in understanding environmental change and effects on indigenous communities. This knowledge can contribute to more relevant decision-making. 2. Research efforts relevant to indigenous communities should establish partnerships with them and contribute to building their capacity, for example by hiring local residents, and providing training and equipment 3. Observations from those spending much time on the land and sea are necessary in not only understanding local environmental change but also in understanding the effects of environmental changes on human well-being and traditional practices 4. Differentenvironmentalchangesareoccurringwithindifferentculturalcontextscreating diverse impacts; as such adaptive actions need to be based on local realities and priorities 5. Environmental changes are generally, but not always, resulting in negative effects to traditional harvests with impacts to food and cultural security 6. Regulations that impact communities ought to be flexible to allow for adaptation to change and ought to include meaningful local voice through instruments such as co-man- agement to support the food security and sovereignty of indigenous communities 7. Community observations from local and traditional experts have much untapped potential as ‘early warning systems’