Inuit Food Insecurity as a Consequence of Fragmented Marine Resource Management Policies? Emerging Lessons from Nunatsiavut
Historically, Inuit communities of the Arctic have relied significantly on the living marine resources of their coastal waters for nutrition, underpinning community cohesion and enhancing individual and collective well-being. Inadequate understanding of the conditions of coastal marine stocks and their dynamics, along with failed past fisheries management practices, now threatens secure access to these resources for food and nutrition. We examine the degree of integration of modern Canadian federal food and marine resource management policies, which heretofore have been unable to lessen food insecurity in the Arctic, suggesting that causes rather than symptoms need to be treated. Using evidence from Nunatsiavut, northern Labrador, we assess the limits to marine resource governance affecting access to traditionally important food sources. We explore the potential for both increased subsistence harvests and enhanced access to commercial fisheries in mitigating Inuit food insecurity, arguing for the relevance of expanded marine resource assessments, more focused fisheries management, and integration with policies designed to mitigate food insecurity. Crucially, the absence of methods for tracking changes in locally harvested marine resources threatens not only individual and household nutrition but also the social, economic, and cultural integrity of Inuit communities. We further describe the needs for monitoring and propose the use of indicators that capture the contributions of locally harvested marine resources to increased food security along with a framework that allows for utilizing local knowledge and observations. Relying on emerging lessons from research in Nunatsiavut, we build a foundation for a better understanding of both the political and institutional legacies that contribute to Labrador Inuit food insecurity and discuss how the deeper integration of food and marine resource management policies could help mitigate it.
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