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2005 Maxwell Studentship Recipient - Martha Stiegman

Homegrown fishery
This summer, Halifax native Martha Stiegman is revisiting her Maritime roots to explore the symbiotic link that exists between healthy fish stocks and healthy communities.

Photo: Scott Leslie

Winner of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society's annual $5,000 Maxwell Studentship in Human Geography, Stiegman, a master's student at Concordia University in Montréal, is looking at how managing resources at the local level is strengthening ties between aboriginal and nonaboriginal fishing villages in southwestern Nova Scotia.

Unlike conventional fisheries management, which Stiegman describes as increasingly privatized and corporate, a community-based approach transfers control to local stakeholders and incorporates indigenous knowledge.

Violent clashes between First Nations and nonnative fishermen in places like Burnt Church, N.B., made national headlines after the 1999 Marshall decision recognized native treaty rights and led to off-season fishing. But what was not widely reported, says Stiegman, was the peaceful way some small fishing communities in southwest Nova Scotia developed local management plans everyone could agree upon.

Besides stock stewardship, however, the strong social component of community-based resource management fosters dialogue between aboriginal and non-aboriginal groups. Stiegman is interviewing fishermen, community leaders and other stakeholders this summer for a documentary that looks at the co-operation which developed among these seemingly disparate groups once they realized they wanted the same thing.

"They are trying to preserve the resource that their culture and way of life is based upon," she says.

"I think the stand they're taking is very principled and inspired."

— Katie Wallace

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