At the Arctic Frontiers 2013 Conference in Norway in January, the Honorable Leona Aqlukkaq, Canadian Minister of Health, said in her keynote speech that our ability to bridge traditional knowledge and realities of today will determine success of the development in the Arctic. Ironically,traditional knowledge was referenced in only a few presentations including one from BSSN: “Capturing Coupling of Socio-economic and Environmental Changes in the Bering Sea Sub Network (BSSN): A Distributed Human Sensor Array to Detect Arctic Environmental Change.”
In a presenation on Arctic fisheries in the North Pacific by David Fluharty from the University of Washington, he lamented about how little we know about subsistence harvest and how much documenting local traditional knowledge on marine harvesting is needed. The BSSN project is responding to these needs.
BSSN demonstrated how a “mixed method” survey could capture seasonal and baseline data. This is accomplished by interviewing experienced harvesters about their activity in specific locations and about environmental observations in the last 15 years or more. The seasonal harvest data are gathered in biannual interviews. Three questionnaires utilizing various types of questions are aimed at eliciting quantifiable data but also encourages respondents to comment. A map is provided in the survey for spatial identification of harvest locations.
Three distinctive data sets (qualitative, quantitative and spatial) contain data on subsistence species, harvesting activities, harvest use, environmental conditions, and response to occurring changes. Gathering and managing data stemming from human perceptions present a well-recognized challenge. We believe that the methodology used in our research proved to be effective in meeting this challenge. Multiple modalities improve data accuracy. Capturing socio-economic data in tandem with observations on environmental conditions reveals adaptation strategies and needs. Spatial data could demonstrate co-location of subsistence areas and current and potential industrial activities.A network of human observers can provide holistic observations of the physical and natural environment and its interrelation with socio-economic conditions in their communities. The results can enable a rapid response to specific adaptation needs by devising appropriate and timely policies.
We encourage development of similar monitoring networks to capture coupling of socio-economic and environmental changes in remote Arctic communities. We also encourage appropriate policy-making bodies and interested industries to take note of the availability of BSSN data that could inform their decisions leading to a conflict-free development in the Arctic that enhances life of all Arctic residents.