HEALTH, RISK, AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE FOR INDIGENOUS SHELLFISH HARVESTERS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA
My master’s thesis explores the connections between health, risk, and environmental justice related to Indigenous shellfish harvesting in British Columbia, Canada. I explore clam gardens, a type of cultural beach modification that enhances clam production and harvest, to examine human, animal, and ecosystem health connections using the One Health framework. My analysis reveals a multitude of interconnectivity, where clam gardens can promote concurrent health benefits for Indigenous peoples, clams, and the ecosystem. Clam gardens support human health on individual, social, and community levels by promoting physical activity, connections with the land, intergenerational sharing of culture and knowledge, food security, autonomy, sovereignty, and self-determination. Clam gardens support animal health by providing optimal clam habitat enhancing clam growth rates, density, and biomass; and ecosystem health by modifying habitat to benefit other species. These interconnections also present challenges where threats can impact health within and across domains, making appropriate consideration of health connections essential for risk management. Risk management is linked to environmental justice, which includes equity of risk distribution, recognition of diversity of people and experiences, and participation in environmental policy creation and management. Indigenous environmental justice also involves a recognition of their rights to self-determination, autonomy, their lands, and cultural practice and development. To investigate a real-life example, I examined whether the Canadian risk management system for paralytic shellfish poisoning is environmentally just for Indigenous shellfish harvesters. I created and applied a framework on environmental justice related to risk management systems and determined that improvements are required for the system to be more supportive of Indigenous environmental justice. Four recommendations for improvement are: 1) increasing collaboration with affected people; 2) expanding and/or modifying monitoring; 3) including Indigenous traditional knowledge to guide decision-making; and 4) recognizing Indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination and autonomy. I also highlight steps Indigenous communities can take to improve environmental justice: creating and submitting draft amendments for the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program; attending Pacific Regional Interdepartmental Shellfish Committee meetings and developing strong working relationships with Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program members; and applying under the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program for new area classification, monitoring sites, and to be monitoring partners. My project was conducted from an outsider perspective, which may vary from perspectives held by Indigenous peoples. My results provide information about health connections that can be used by decision-makers in clam garden revitalization projects, and offer recommendations for members of the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program and Indigenous communities on how to improve environmental justice related to paralytic shellfish poisoning risk management.
clam gardens, health connections, Indigenous health, clam health, ecosystem health, Indigenous shellfish harvest, risk, environmental health, environmental justice, paralytic shellfish poisoning
Master of Environment and Sustainability (M.E.S.)
School of Environment and Sustainability
Environment and Sustainability