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Environmental Law Institute

From thinning ice to rising temperatures to unprecedented wildfires, the Arctic landscape is changing dramatically. Studies indicate that the Arctic is likely to be seasonally ice-free within two to three decades, and in September, research confirmed that a new climate system is indeed emerging. Inuit have safeguarded the region’s resources for thousands of years and are at the forefront of these drastic changes. Food security and food sovereignty are priority concerns that are directly connected to human rights and the health of the entire Arctic. A new report from the Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska, Food Sovereignty and Self-Governance: Inuit Role in Managing Arctic Marine Resources, links Inuit Food Sovereignty to holistic and adaptive management strategies that can ensure the food security, health, and well-being of Inuit throughout the Arctic for generations to come.

With their unique and rich values and management practices, Inuit have successfully safeguarded the Arctic for thousands of years. But western management systems overlaid on top of traditional Inuit practices often take a different approach, sometimes grounded in historical discrimination.

“Environmental Law Institute was honored to play a key role in this Inuit-led effort to identify opportunities for promoting co-management in the Arctic,” said Environmental Law Institute Attorney Cynthia R. Harris, Director of the Institute’s Tribal Programs. “The findings in this report elicit longstanding issues of inequity and the struggle for Indigenous sovereignty—but it also suggests promising pathways for moving forward, led by Inuit,” she added.

The report is a product of over 90 Inuit authors and a nine-member Advisory Committee. Throughout, the authors emphasized the importance of law and policy reforms needed to reflect Inuit knowledge, perspectives, and sustainable practices. In addition, the interpretation and implementation of law and policy must be understood in relation to how they support or impede Inuit food sovereignty in a rapidly changing Arctic. The Environmental Law Institute took part in the Inuit-led project, conducting extensive research into the legal and regulatory framework around management and co-management in the Alaskan and Inuvialuit Settlement Region of Canada.

The report uses four case studies focused on walrus, char, beluga, and salmon to explore current management and co-management practices in Alaska and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. The report also offers snapshots of important connecting components, such as climate change, the need for an ecosystem-based approach, the impacts of imposed borders, and the strength and resilience of Inuit culture. In addition to support from Environmental Law Institute, the report was conducted in partnership with the Eskimo Walrus Commission, the Inuvialuit Game Council, the Fisheries Joint Management Committee, the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, the Association of Village Council Presidents, and advised by ICC Canada.

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The report is available at

The report is also available on the Environmental Law Institute website at

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1732373. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

About Environmental Law Institute

The Environmental Law Institute makes law work for people, places, and the planet. With its non-partisan, independent approach, Environmental Law Institute promotes solutions to tough environmental problems. The Institute’s unparalleled research and highly respected publications inform the public debate and build the institutions needed to advance sustainable development.

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The Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska releases Inuit-led report: Food Sovereignty and Self-Governance — Inuit Role in Arctic Marine Resource Management