Credit: Zack Embree Greenpeace

Posted on 26 July 2017

Lessons learned from Canada

A recently published paper in AlterNative identifies 5 elements to consider when developing ecosystem-based management (EBM) for Aotearoa.

Our project investigating indigenous approaches to EBM completed in early 2017. This reviewed and evaluated two Canadian projects that incorporated indigenous environmental and economic approaches into a resource management policy framework. The case studies were British Columbia's Marine Plan Partnership for the Pacific North Coast (MaPP) and the Great Bear Initiative (GBI).

The researchers identified 5 elements to consider for developing EBM that successfully incorporates Māori perspectives and aspirations.

  • Power dynamics – Canada’s ‘enabling’ legal framework supported transformative shifts in policy making, engagement between First Nations and government, and decision-making.
  • Jurisdiction – Any party that has jurisdiction over the location, resource and/or activities should be involved in developing EBM otherwise there is a risk of conflict and ineffective co-governance.
  • Adaptive management – ‘Learning by doing’, ie an iterative process that feeds back into future decision-making and adapts to uncertainty and/or changes in the ecosystem.
  • Agency – Ensuring indigenous people are able to participate in decision-making.
  • Recognition of indigenous knowledge – Acknowledging traditional ecological knowledge as a legitimate body of knowledge, and using it alongside science through shared governance and participative bottom-up planning processes and monitoring.

“Another important finding was that indigenous views of EBM don’t always match the definition in the overarching framework,” said Dr Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai, the project leader and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Māori at the University of Waikato.

James Whetu, leader of our Vision Mātauranga research theme, said: “This is useful to know because it supports our approach to defining EBM for New Zealand’s marine spaces. After internal discussion, we’ve come up with a definition (see below) because it’s helpful to have a start point for discussions, but we know that it will probably need to be adapted and updated as our research progresses and we get more input from Māori and other stakeholders.”

This research is relevant to a number of our other projects, but most especially Trialling EBM, which will use Tasman and Golden Bays as a case study to investigate how to successfully put EBM into practice.

Sustainable Seas defines ecosystem-based management (EBM) as: 'a holistic and inclusive way to manage marine environments, and the competing uses for, demands on, and ways New Zealanders value them'. This definition will likely need to be adapted and updated over time.

Indigenous perspectives of ecosystem-based management and co-governance in the Pacific Northwest: lessons for Aotearoa is available to download.

Related pages


  • Incorporation of indigenous approaches to guardianship in Canada, 2016

    19 KB | Adobe Acrobat PDF file

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Related projects & activities

Incorporation of indigenous approaches to guardianship in Canada
Credit: Zack Embree Greenpeace
Incorporation of indigenous approaches to guardianship in Canada
  • Completed project

We evaluated how indigenous approaches have been incorporated into Canada’s marine resource management policies.