How Traditional Knowledge Comes to Matter in Atlantic Salmon Governance in Norway and Finland




Atlantic salmon, governance, Finland, Norway, Sámi, knowledge co-production, traditional knowledge, Näätämö River, Barents Sea, Indigenous rights


The article compares different models for knowledge production, all of which include traditional knowledge, as part of Norwegian and Finnish Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) research and management projects. Our hope is to contribute constructively to more socially robust knowledge production in Arctic environmental governance. Through investigating how traditional knowledge comes to matter at local, regional (national), and international levels in different Atlantic salmon research and governance projects in Norway and Finland, we examine the social robustness of different approaches to knowledge co-production. In general, the projects that seem to fulfill Arctic expectations of traditional knowledge co-production with science (projects with high legitimacy) seem to have the least impact on policy, and vice versa. We argue that expectations at the international policy level towards traditional knowledge integration with science are at times unrealistically high and hard to meet at local levels and in national policy contexts. We therefore argue for rethinking how a legitimate and policy-relevant knowledge co-production process should be conducted. Arctic policy levels, Norwegian and Finnish environmental authorities, and salmon conservation science could fruitfully draw lessons from the Näätämö co-management project, which is already referred to as an example of best practice in Arctic environmental governance. To achieve social robustness, projects need to balance scientific credibility with legitimacy among local and Indigenous rights holders. This balance might entail giving up on expectations of integrating traditional ecological knowledge with science and embracing the undefined spaces within Arctic and Indigenous knowledge production.