Amplifying Indigenous voices, seafood solutions, mammal migrations: 3 stories you may have missed

© Conservation International/photo by Luana Luna

Editor's note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

1. “Securing Indigenous guardianship of vital ecosystems”: Q&A with Nia Tero CEO Peter Seligmann 

In a recent interview, a conservationist talks about Nia Tero — an organization that puts Indigenous peoples at the core of its conservation strategies.

The story: Indigenous peoples manage a variety of Earth’s ecosystems, including forests, grasslands and coastlines, and protect 80 percent of global biodiversity — yet they have historically been sidelined from conservation initiatives. In a recent interview, Conservation International’s co-founder and chairman Peter Seligmann spoke to Mongabay’s Rhett Butler about Nia Tero — an organization he launched in 2017 that prioritizes Indigenous rights and knowledge in its conservation strategies.

“For us, it was clear that humanity’s fate is directly dependent upon the ability of nations, and the public, to support Indigenous territorial rights and embrace Indigenous peoples’ belief in the reciprocal relationship between all beings and the Earth,” said Seligmann. “We were determined to shape our organization around our shared belief in reciprocity as a foundational principle for all human societies.”

The big picture: For centuries, social injustices against Indigenous peoples have hindered their ability to conserve the nature they depend on. Increasingly, conservation organizations are recognizing Indigenous peoples’ knowledge, their rights and their crucial roles in helping to protect nature — but there is still a long way to go, according to Minnie Degawan, director of the Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Program at Conservation International.

“Within the environmental movement, Indigenous peoples are often seen as beneficiaries of nature conservation projects, instead of partners,” Minnie Degawan, a member of the Kankanaey-Igorot Indigenous group, told Conservation News. “The reality is that most of the initiatives to protect nature could not succeed without Indigenous peoples. Until Indigenous peoples have a seat at the table when it comes to how their lands are used or managed, they will continue to be subjected to racism.”  

Tech companies, NGOs and others are shining a light on the dark side of the seafood industry. 

The story: From satellite imagery to databases that track suspicious fishing vessels, new tools are helping combat human rights abuses in the multibillion-dollar seafood industry, reported Virginia Gewin for The Counter. The technology is helping to fill a gap for coastal governments which may not have the resources to protect their fisheries — and the vulnerable, below deck crews who work in them. 

The big picture: Along with new technology, collective action is essential to tackling human rights issues across global seafood supply chains, Conservation International’s Elena Finkbeiner told The Counter. “One organization coming at it from one angle will not do it justice,” she said.

To address human rights violations in the seafood industry, Conservation International helped develop the Monterey Framework for Socially Responsible Seafood, a set of guidelines for the industry — from small-scale fisheries to large companies — to protect human rights, ensure equitable opportunity to benefits, and improve food and livelihood security. 

Conservation International also developed a social responsibility assessment tool, which can be used to identify risks of social issues, uncover critical information gaps and target areas in need of improvement — including treatment of fishers, access to food and first aid.

Adapted for cold weather, Colorado's Rocky Mountain mammals are scrambling uphill as their habitats get warmer. 

The story: A new study found that dozens of species — from mice to marmots — are migrating up the slopes of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains in the United States to stay cool as temperatures rise due to climate change, reported Chelsea Harvey for Scientific American. Using information from museum specimens and literature published before 1980, researchers compiled a database to better understand where small mammals have historically made their homes in the Colorado Rockies. Then, they conducted ground surveys to determine whether the mammals had moved. The researchers found that more than half the 47 species in the study have migrated to higher elevations, climbing an average 131 meters (430 feet). 

The big picture: In 2019, a landmark UN report revealed that nearly 1 million species face extinction due to human activities and climate change. In response to increasing temperatures, animal species are moving toward the north and south poles and up mountains to escape the heat as the climate warms — which could also lead them closer to extinction, Conservation International senior climate change scientist Lee Hannah told Conservation News

“When human activities accelerate climate change, species are going to try to follow those climates that are suitable for them rather than adapting to new ones,” explained Hannah. “For many species, this requires moving upslope — but at a certain point, there will be nowhere left to go, which is what we call the ‘escalator to extinction.’”

Read more here.

Vanessa Bauza is the editorial director at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates. Donate to Conservation International.

Cover image: Fishermen in Brazil (© Conservation International/Luana Luna)