The consequences of globalization, youth out-migration, resource depletion, habitat degradation and governance issues are just some of the challenges that face many coastal communities. A new alliance of researchers at Memorial University of Newfoundland are undertaking an innovative program of community-based research that will support regional efforts to devise and implement a recovery strategy for fish stocks and fishing communities on the West Coast of Newfoundland. The Community-University Research for Recovery Alliance (CURRA), spearheaded by Dr. Barbara Neis, Dept. of Sociology, includes faculty from the St. John’s campus and from Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, will engage many community partners and be housed at Memorial’s Bonne Bay Marine Station.
“By recovery, we mean the possibility of a vibrant future for people, communities and their natural environment,” said Dr. Neis. “Key requirements for recovery include good science, broad community involvement, timely intervention, and effective governance.”
Research teams led by researchers and community partners will look at the relationship between globalization and local communities including associated threats and opportunities.
“Since youth out-migration poses a serious challenge to the future of our fishery communities, we will examine employment options, work quality and occupational health issues for young workers and promote dialogue between local youth and those who have left to work elsewhere,” explained Dr. Neis.
As part of the project, a photographic essay will document the cultural significance of fish plants to fishery communities, helping to initiate discussions about alternative uses for these important industrial structures. A play capturing the central themes of the project will be mounted by Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador, and community radio broadcasts, educational programming for youth and harvesters, as well as an interactive website, will be used to promote community engagement with the project and with the Bonne Bay Marine Station.
“Central to recovery is the recognition that habitat requires protection,” said Dr. Neis. “Using harvesters’ local ecological knowledge, we will also study the location and structure of habitats.”
Another component of the alliance will identify alternative governance approaches appropriate to achieving recovery in the context of globalization and resource degradation.
The project is one of 13 that have been awarded up to $1 million each for a total of nearly $13 million by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), under its Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) program.
“We are proud to support these valuable projects from across the country, each of which brings together top minds from community groups, universities and colleges,” said Dr. Chad Gaffield, president of SSHRC. “The results of these 13 projects will advance our understanding of important issues and make a strong contribution to Canadian academics, policy-makers and society at large.”