Sea Urchin and Indigenous Marine Resource Management in the Archaeological Record: Implications for Sea Otter Conservation in Coastal British Columbia




Nagle, Arianna

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Ancient remains of sea urchins are frequently encountered in archaeological contexts along the Northwest Coast of North America, yet they have not been the focus of synergetic archaeological study. However, these important marine species are important for providing new insights into the deep time of Indigenous marine resource management systems. Motivated in part by current ecological research identifying the importance of sea urchin body size for influencing the range and productivity of kelp forests on the Pacific coast and the importance of urchins as a size selective preferred prey for sea otters (Enhydra lutris) this project involved developing a quantitative methodology to evaluate red sea urchin (Mesocentrotus franciscanus) size variation in the archaeological record based on linear regression. This method was developed to investigate the prevalence of sea otters in the Barkley Sound region from archaeological data to inform contemporary sea otter conservation in coastal British Columbia – a widespread concern across several First Nations’ traditional territories today. Specifically, this paper investigates whether urchins of large size are regularly present in archaeological samples from the Broken Group and Deer Group Islands to lend support to the hypothesis that Coastal First Nations actively managed sea otters by excluding them from urchin harvesting areas. This research contributes to the greater socio-cultural context of Coastal First Nations interaction with their marine environments as active participants rather than passive foragers.



Archaeology, Historical Ecology, Red Sea Urchin, Sea Otters, Linear Regression, Marine Conservation, Indigenous Rights and Title, Collaboration