Boundless Water and Bounded People: The Cultural and Social Implications of Shellfish Closures in Boundary Bay
Authors: Emma S. Norman, Ph.D.
Disciplines: Environmental Studies, Native American Studies, Political Science and Public Administration
Themes: Environmental Justice, Intergovernmental Relations, Treaty Rights and Sovereignty
This case explores the closure of shellfish harvesting in Boundary Bay, a small body of water in the Salish Sea of the northwestern continental United States and southwestern Canada. At one time, this bay was one of the most productive shellfish harvesting locations on the Pacific coast. Coast Salish communities relied successfully on these waters for centuries as primary sources of food. However, degraded upland environment and bacterial contamination prompted governmental officials to close the area for harvesting in 1962. In Washington, the bay only recently opened for restricted use; it remains closed in British Columbia.
The Boundary Bay case presents several important themes regarding Native science, particularly within a transboundary context. First, the Boundary Bay case underscores the difficulty in maintaining a traditional food source in a contemporary environment. Second, the case reveals how jurisdictional fragmentation complicates the management of flow resources, such as water. Third, this case explores the practical considerations of ‘governing resources’ for First Nations communities who are often required to operate in a system, which requires expertise and training in a vocabulary and discourse foreign, and perhaps, counter-ethical to their belief system. Fourth, by way of looking forward, the case highlights the work of the