Re-mapping transborder environmental governance: sovereign territory and the pacific salmon fishery
Zimmerman, Jackson Tyler
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Increasingly common conflicts over transboundary natural resources in a world characterized by growing interdependency raise important questions about the sovereignty of states and governance based on territoriality. The so-called "Salmon Wars" provide an ideal laboratory for the study of these geopolitical organizing principles. The "Salmon Wars" are comprised of a complex set of disputes among stakeholders in the U.S. states of Alaska, Washington, and Oregon and the Canadian province of British Columbia over the conservation and equitable distribution of diminishing wild Pacific salmon stocks. The environmental geography of the salmon has been deeply divided and fragmented by artificial territorial boundaries, resulting in a 'spatial mismatch' between the mobile, transborder resource and the agencies and institutions charged with managing that resource. This study first documents and then interprets the theoretical implications of transborder initiatives undertaken by nongovernmental organizations in response to the continued decline of salmon populations caused, in part, by the spatial mismatch. Special attention is paid to the activities of previously marginalized groups who have either been excluded from, or underrepresented in, policy-making processes, including indigenous peoples, small-scale family and community fishing interests and environmentalists.This research suggests that transborder efforts to improve the management and conservation of salmon are significantly limited by the political framework of territorial sovereignty that shapes the landscape of world governance. It thus supports the scholarship that suggests that sovereign territorial states, and the borders that define and encapsulate them, remain relevant in the geopolitics of the environment. Nevertheless, concrete action and a respatialized geographical imagination of resource management are beginning to pose a challenge to the traditional notions of sovereignty and territorially-based control of resources as new mappings, initiatives and networks that transcend borders encourage the transference of authority to entities other than the state. Territoriality is still a cornerstone of geopolitical authority, but it is becoming more multifaceted and complex.
- Geography