For the first time, a branch of the United Nations is asking indigenous peoples to share their traditional knowledge about the evolution of Arctic fisheries. The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held a seminar on the topic in Rome last week. 

"For Inuit it is not only fishing," said Dalee Sambo Dorough, Ph.D., a former political science professor at UAA and chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC). "One of my main efforts was to broaden the discussion about food security, and the dialogue within the FAO about Arctic indigenous food security, and the importance of hunting as well as fishing and other harvesting activities."

Dorough was one of dozens of representatives present at the meeting in Italy. One of the outcomes was a declaration that calls upon member states of the FAO to take further action to protect fisheries in the Arctic. The document is still pending final publication, following a public comment period this weekend. 

"The preamble of that declaration actually talks about the impact of climate change and the various different threats to the livelihood of Arctic indigenous peoples," Dorough said. "I think it's quite significant that we were able to ensure that our approach, our concerns, our interests were registered with the FAO."

In a 2015 report, the ICC outlined some specific concerns for Alaska. It notes the impact of climate change on cultural identity and cites a link between thinning sea ice and the health of walruses. 

"Many of us rely heavily on walrus for physical and spiritual nourishment," the report states. "Through the processing of the caught walrus, community members come together to assist in the processing and storing of the food. Education and language are passed to younger generations as youth learn how to make clothes and art. The feasts, celebrations and games that follow build social cohesion."

On Wednesday, an intergovernmental panel at the United Nation's Climate Action Summit in New York released a special report on the impact's of climate change on the ocean and cryosphere, with specific warnings about the effects of global warming on traditional food security in the Arctic. 

"Inuit depend on the marine environment, so that report is extremely important to us," said Dorough.

In addition, the report underscored the role of indigenous knowledge in studying and addressing climate change, something NASA has highlighted as well. 

"The report also validates what we have been saying for decades about the impact of global warming and climate change for our communities," Dorough said. 

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