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Kaitiaki reveal the extent of seafood’s decline

Kaitiaki reveal the extent of seafood’s decline

A broad survey of kaitiaki (environmental guardians) has revealed a common concern that the abundance and diversity of seafood has declined along much of the coastline over the past 30-50 years.

The study was published in the latest issue of MAI Journal: A New Zealand Journal of Indigenous Scholarship, published by Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga. The paper by Jonathan Dick, Dr Janet Stephenson, Rauru Kirikiri, Professor Henrik Moller and Rachel Turner is titled “Listening to the kaitiaki.”

The researchers interviewed 22 kaitiaki from 14 tribes throughout the North Island. According to their testimonies, considerable change has occurred in their lifetimes with some seafood no longer readily available and some species disappearing completely. While Western conservationists have tended to emphasise ecological impacts, kaitiaki are concerned with both ecological and cultural consequences of the losses.

“They commented that now it takes much longer to ‘get a feed’ so while feeding the family would once have just involved wading in the water for 10 minutes, it now could take several hours. The reduced availability of seafood species is also undermining the ability of the hapū to offer hospitality at marae, and younger generations have less familiarity with some species,” says Jonathan Dick.

For kaitiaki, sound environmental management is inextricably linked to their ancestors and history, to traditional and evolving knowledge and practices, to their contemporary individual and collective identity, to spirituality, and to their culturally defined responsibilities.

“Recognising a diversity of views is more likely to promote environmental restoration. The kaitiaki’s cultural associations and long-term ecological baselines provide an important counter-narrative to that predominating amongst fisheries managers, scientists and politicians who assert that current Western fisheries management is safeguarding the abundance and diversity of New Zealand’s fish stocks,” he says.

MAI Journal publishes multidisciplinary peer-reviewed articles around indigenous knowledge and development in the context of Aotearoa New Zealand. The journal is published online and all content is free to access. www.journal.mai.ac.nz
This journal has evolved from MAI Review, and complements AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples. The Editors are Professor Michael Walker and Dr Tracey McIntosh.

Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga (NPM) is one of New Zealand’s seven Centres of Research Excellence and consists of 16 participating research entities and is hosted by The University of Auckland. NPM conducts research of relevance to Māori communities and is an important vehicle by which New Zealand continues to be a key player in global indigenous research and affairs. Its research is underpinned by the vision to realise the creative potential of Māori communities and to bring about positive change and transformation in the nation and wider world.


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