Breaking Ice: Renewable Resource and Ocean Management in the Canadian North


396 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55238-159-5
DDC 333.7'09719




Edited by Fikret Berkes et al
Reviewed by Dave Bennett

David Bennett is the national director of the Department of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.


Breaking Ice is a collection of 17 articles on hunting, herding,
trapping, and fishing (generally “harvesting”) in the Canadian
North, in mainly Inuit communities. The book comes with an illustrative
DVD, “Watching, Listening and Understanding Change in the
Environment,” in which indigenous communities discuss their resource
policies and the approaches they adopt.

Two factors in particular have set the stage for a new round of
Aboriginal resource management: a series of land-claim agreements
starting in the 1970s and the Oceans Act of 1997, with the subsequent
Oceans Strategy of 2002. These have provided an institutional framework
for a new approach to renewable resource management, known as integrated
management (IM). In IM, policy is now cross-sectoral, through the equal
participation of all stakeholders, with Aboriginal communities as the
central economic interest, informed in a highly practical fashion by
indigenous knowledge.

The biggest challenges to Aboriginal communities, which the editors of
the book point out but do not much discuss, are factors largely beyond
their control: oil and gas development, mining, Arctic Ocean
exploitation, climate change, and pollution generated from sources
outside Aboriginal society. Thus, we could see a situation in which a
novel and impressive system of Aboriginal resource management comes to
nothing because of the remorseless threats to their cultural survival.

Researchers in the field come under pressure from academia, government
policy-makers, and project funders to come up with a theoretical
rationale for their recommendations. So several of the articles
establish a theoretical framework and argue that the stance advocated
demonstrates the truth or the validity of the theoretical approach. For
the lay reader, this can be a tedious distraction from an intrinsically
interesting topic. Some of the diagrams in the book look alarmingly like
the Battle of Stalingrad: lines, arrows, and circles, with the names of
sociological concepts replacing those of military formations. Stripped
of such theoretical dialectics, Breaking Ice is a notable success.


“Breaking Ice: Renewable Resource and Ocean Management in the Canadian North,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 24, 2024,