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Commensurability of scientific and indigneous ecological knowledge in coastal Melanesia: implications for contempory marine resource management strategies: WORKING PAPER

This record describes, and links to a working paper produced through the Resource Management in Asia-Pacific (RMAP) Program based at The Australian National University in Canberra.


Fundamental ontological differences between scientific and indigenous ecological knowledge systems in coastal Melanesia have resulted in very different conclusions being drawn from similar sets of observations. The same inductive logic may lead both scientists and non-science-trained fishers to conclude that, say, square-tail trout aggregate at a certain phase of the moon in a certain reef passage, but different assumptions derived from disparate ontologies (in this case 'traditional' Melanesian versus scientific) may lead to very different conclusions about why the fish are there. In some cases these differences have significant implications for the way marine resources are exploited, and managed (or not). Examples are presented here of non-scientific ontologies that underpin local beliefs about the biology or ecology of fished organisms that have led to poor management of stocks of these species. The potential for scientific education to 'fill gaps' in indigenous knowledge systems (and vice versa) and thus lead to improved management is discussed in the light of some claims that scientific and traditional knowledge systems are incommensurable. The heuristic value of the purported absence of a (Cartesian) dualistic separation of nature and culture in traditional Melanesian cosmologies (relative to those of industrialised Western cultures) is explored with regard to indigenous conceptions of human agency over resource abundance, and the relevance this has for management and conservation. I also speculate about recent transformations of rural Melanesian ontological frameworks through Western/scientific influences, and the associated differences in knowledge systems between young and old members of society, again with respect to the implications these have for the work of proponents of resource management and biodiversity conservation in the region.

Data and Resources

Additional Info

Field Value
Title Commensurability of scientific and indigneous ecological knowledge in coastal Melanesia: implications for contempory marine resource management strategies: WORKING PAPER
Type Dataset
Language English
Licence Other
Data Status inactive
Landing Page http://data.gov.au/dataset/cff045b2-bc26-42bc-acf1-d4370d17345d
Date Published 2017-06-24
Date Updated 2017-06-24
Contact Point
Crawford School of Public Policy (CSPP), The Australian National University (ANU)
rmap@anu.edu.au
Geospatial Coverage {"type": "Polygon", "coordinates": [[[131.0, -30.0], [170.0, -30.0], [170.0, -3.0], [131.0, -3.0], [131.0, -30.0]]]}
Jurisdiction Commonwealth of Australia
Data Portal Australian Oceans Data Network CSW Harvester
Publisher/Agency Crawford School of Public Policy (CSPP), The Australian National University (ANU)
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