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Conservation, conflict, and core beliefs: Examining conflict and opportunities towards transformation in an Orca-Salmon-Human system

February 11 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm


Speaker: Lauren Eckert
Ph.D. student, University of Victoria

Conflict frequently emerges as a result of environmental management decisions or conservation interventions. Conflict is characterized by tensions between individuals or groups of stakeholders, and emerges due to clashes in goals, objectives, and more deeply-rooted beliefs and values. Social conflicts are often referred to as “wicked problems” due to social embeddedness, complexity, and resistance to solutions. One means to overcome these wicked conservation problems is by examining the values and beliefs at the root of seemingly intractable conflict, rather than focusing on the superficial conflicts at hand (e.g. disagreements regarding management decisions). These conservation conflict transformation processes aim to understand the roots of pervasive problems and identify long-term solutions. In the Salish Sea region of British Columbia, Canada, a wicked conservation problem has emerged surrounding Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) (Orcinus orca) and Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). SRKW are critically endangered due to multiple, intersecting stressors – among them depletion of salmon. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada has passed measures that restrict recreational fishing of Chinook to protect SRKW. Public response to protection measures has been conflict-laden and is especially tense between recreational fishing and conservation-oriented communities – two stakeholder groups assumed to be at opposite sides of emergent conflict. Employing social science methods, we endeavoured to empirically examine the social identity, environmental identity, beliefs, and opinions of those purported to be involved in this seemingly intractable public conflict. Our preliminary results reveal complexity within stakeholder groups, provide important information regarding the deeply-rooted aspects of superficial protection-measure oriented conflict, and ultimately identify opportunities to re-imagine solutions based on generally-aligned values across the two groups. Through sharing these results, we aim to offer generalizable new insight into the conservation conflict transformation levels-of-conflict framework to inform future scholarly and practical endeavour.