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An Indigenous Ocean Governance Forum at OceanObs’19 in Hawaii
Once every ten years, the OceanObs conference brings people from all over the world together to communicate the progress of ocean observing networks and to chart innovative solutions to society’s growing needs for ocean information and governance in the coming decade. OceanObs’19 includes an Indigenous Ocean Governance Forum for the very first time.
September 11, 2019

Once every ten years, the OceanObs conference brings people from all over the world together to communicate the progress of ocean observing networks and to chart innovative solutions to society’s growing needs for ocean information and governance in the coming decade.

OceanObs’19 will galvanize the ocean observing community to improve response to scientific and societal needs of a fit-for-purpose integrated ocean observing system, for better understanding the environment of the Earth, monitoring climate, and informing adaptation strategies as well as the sustainable use of ocean resources.

As part of this decadal conference–whose goal is to improve the governance of a global ocean observing system–OceanObs’19 includes an Indigenous Ocean Governance Forum for the very first time. Fifty-three Indigenous delegates from Canada, the United States, Hawaii, the South Pacific Islands, and New Zealand will attend the conference to build relationships between observers and Indigenous communities and to support and strengthen ocean stewardship and ocean governance. Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) and PiscesRPM are coordinating a nine-member Canadian Indigenous Delegation at the conference, with funding from Tides Canada, ONC, and CEGN Oceans Collaborative.

“The Indigenous Ocean Governance Forum is an exceptional opportunity to internationally unite ocean observation, Indigenous stewardship, and collaborative ocean management. Indigenous peoples are in a position of unique knowledge that will assist in identifying ocean observing needs for adapting to climate change; reducing risks to marine hazards; enhancing marine spatial planning and food security; monitoring ocean health and maritime traffic in traditional ocean territories; and enabling capacity-building for ocean observing." - Kim Juniper, Chief Scientist

The nine Canadian Indigenous Ocean Governance Forum delegates were selected to represent Indigenous communities on all three of Canada’s coasts. Clockwise from top left: Shelley Denny (Mi’kmaw) Director of Research and Stewardship, Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources; Moses Martin (Tla-o-qui-aht) Chief Councillor; Alexander Flaherty (Inuit) Owner/Operator Polar Outfitting in Iqaluit, Nunavut; Cheyenne MacDonald, (Mi’kmaw, Sipekne’katik) Climate Adaptation Officer, Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq; Michael Vegh (Heiltsuk) Youth Delegate Resource Management Coordinator with Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance; Ross Wilson, (Heiltsuk) Executive Director of the Metlakatla Stewardship Soceity; Ken Paul (Maliseet) Assembly of First Nations Director of Fisheries; Mia Otokiak (Inuit) Junior Technical Advisor for the Nunavut Impact Review Board; and Chief Silver (Sumas) Elected Chief of Sumas First Nation.

The Indigenous delegates will be introduced to conference participants during the Hawaiian Cultural event on the first day of the conference. Throughout the week they will meet daily to coordinate listening opportunities across the simultaneous breakout sessions and exchange impressions. On Thursday, 19 September, an Indigenous Peoples Declaration will be released at a Town Hall event on ocean observing needs for Indigenous Ocean Governance, and the delegates will also participate in two breakout sessions. During the final plenary session, Michael Vegh–Canada’s Indigenous Youth Delegate to OceanObs’19–will join the Fresh Perspectives panel along with young people from the academic, industry, and ocean policy sectors.

Following the conference, an OceanObs’19 Steering Committee will work with the Indigenous delegates to produce a discussion paper with recommendations for ocean-observing capacity development options for Indigenous communities. A post-conference academic publication is also planned, which will articulate the ocean observing needs and priorities of coastal Indigenous peoples.

If you are attending OceanObs’19 please drop by ONC’s booth #212B to say hello. Use hashtag #IndigenousOceanObs to follow the unfolding conversation on Twitter.

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