Setting Priorities: Evolving Coastal First Nations Regional Monitoring

When community members decided to focus monitoring efforts on regional issues important to them, instead of those of outside agencies, they were able to establish a successful monitoring program among coastal First Nations in BC.

Working together through the Coastal Stewardship Network (CSN), coastal First Nations leaders developed a regional-level system for monitoring and data collection called the Regional Monitoring System (RMS).

Priority setting takes time and good will. To get started, stewardship staff from participating Nations came together to discuss common concerns.

The team identified many areas of concern. They used a set of criteria to help with prioritization:

  • Issues that were relatively easy to monitor.
  • Issues that weren’t being sufficiently monitored by others.
  • Data that would be useful and relevant if collected at a regional scale.  

In the beginning, Guardian Watchmen collected data on wildlife, trap and boat sightings, impacts to cultural sites and suspicious activities. As new concerns arose, additional issues and indicators were added, including tsunami debris and bear hunt monitoring.

After five successful years, the CSN conducted an evaluation of the RMS and asked: what are the current needs of the Nations involved?  

Much had changed in five years, from active participation by nations in coast-wide marine protection and management, to a need for more sophisticated data products, to rapid advances in mobile technology.  

To ensure the RMS remained relevant, a comprehensive inventory was done in each community to determine how Nations wanted to use their data now and into the future.  

It was clear from the inventory that all Nations using the RMS have much greater data collection capacity and more complex data needs now than when they started. The inventory uncovered more than 120 different activities that coastal First Nations monitor or would like to monitor in the future.  

Lara Hoshizaki, former Regional Monitoring System coordinator, describes the next step in priority setting.

“We developed a scoping framework for assessing each of the monitoring activities,” she says. “We then went through a process where we asked each Nation to consider questions such as ‘Is the RMS the best tool for collecting this information? Is this data best collected at a regional scale? Is this data important now or in the future? Is your Nation the best entity to collect this data?’”

Through the scoping framework, the list of 120 has been narrowed down to 16 monitoring activities. The CSN is currently in the process of developing monitoring methodology and sampling protocols for each of these activities. They are also considering how the information collected can best be analyzed and illustrated for future use.