VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Per capita seafood consumption among indigenous people living on or near the coast is 15 times greater than per person seafood consumption among non-indigenous people in the same country.
The findings are part of first-of-its-kind global analysis by researchers with the University of British Columbia. The study was published this week in the journal PLoS ONE.
"For indigenous people who are not recognized at the state level, this type of resource helps quantify the resources they depend on," lead study author Andres Cisneros-Montemayor, a research associate with the UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, said in a news release.
According to seafood consumption data collected by Cisneros-Montemayor and his colleagues from 1,900 indigenous communities, native coastal peoples eat a total of 2.1 million metric tons of seafood every year.
Groups included in the study all share both a history of marginalization and strong social and cultural links to the marine environment. Scientists hope their research will be used to inform domestic policy discussions related the rights of native peoples.
"Most significantly, the generation of information about the consumption of fish as food shows that food security and sovereignty must also be part of the conversation about indigenous issues," said Sherry Pictou, former chief of the Bear River First Nation.
Members of indigenous groups say the new data represent more than just a way of sustenance. Fishing, for many native peoples, is a way of life.
"For a lot of these communities, the practice of fishing forms a link to their culture that defines them as a people. It's not just about eating fish, it's about maintaining an identity as a distinct culture," said study co-author Yoshitaka Ota, director of policy for the Nereus Program. "Not only must fish and ecosystems be protected, but also those lives and cultures that depend on the ocean."
The Nereus Program is a collaboration between the Nippon Foundation and the University of British Columbia established to sponsor, promote and conduct interdisciplinary ocean research with a focus on sustainability.