Inuit observations of environmental change and effects of change in Anaktalâk Bay, Labrador
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As in many arctic regions, impacts of increasing environmental stressors such as climate change and industrialization (particularly mineral exploration and mine development) have led local Inuit in northern Labrador to notice changes in their environment. In addition, they have expressed concerns that research and monitoring programs aimed at understanding and tracking these changes are lacking in many areas and do not accurately reflect their knowledge and concerns. Many communities feel powerless in the face of these changes as they lack the resources needed to respond. In consideration of this, an integrated regional approach has been initiated in Nunatsiavut to ensure concerns from all stakeholders, including Inuit as well as major industrial and governmental organizations, are adequately addressed. The purpose of this study was to further the understanding of environmental changes in Anaktalâk Bay (the shipping route to the Voisey’s Bay Nickel mine) and the effects of these changes on local Inuit in order to inform the development of a multi-partner monitoring (MPM) program for the area. The research was conducted using a participatory approach that included documenting Inuit knowledge (IK) obtained during a workshop involving 14 long-term residents of Nain (>25 years; both genders) in December 2006. Trends identified during the transcript analysis highlight that often the most severe perceived effects on Inuit occur when environmental stressors work synergistically. Key linkages between environmental changes and effects were also identified. The workshop findings document the local desire for a monitoring program to track ecosystem-based changes, as well as the social, economic and environmental effects of these changes, to ensure that Inuit are able to mitigate these changes, and adapt when mitigation is not possible or sufficient. Workshop participants voiced an interest in participating in future monitoring activities and it is anticipated that program development will give both researchers and community members an opportunity to continue to work together and learn from each other, in order to develop and implement relevant and appropriate local solutions. Ultimately, this program should begin to address the Inuit desire in this region to strengthen and protect their relationship with the environment.