Understanding Climate Change Impacts on the Nutrition and Cultural Benefits of the Makah Tribe’s Traditional Seafood Species

The Salish Sea

Since time immemorial, the Makah Tribe has lived on the northwest section of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. Throughout their existence they have maintained strong, spiritual ties to the ocean, using the waters for food, transportation and cultural ceremonies. Climate change, overuse and other forms of environmental degradation pose an unprecedented threat to ocean ecosystems, threatening access to and quality of marine resources used by Makah in the present and for generations to come. Fish and shellfish species traditionally used by the Tribe are vulnerable to impacts of climate change including rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification. The degradation of these marine resources negatively impacts components of Tribal wellbeing such as harvest and consumption of traditional foods.

Use of traditional foods provides sustenance and a connection to culture; additionally, many health issues that are on the rise in Native populations across the U.S., including obesity, diabetes, and cancer, occur infrequently in communities that are living on a traditional diet. This project plans to examine how the nutritional benefits of seafood may be affected by climate impacts on fish and shellfish species used by the Makah Tribe for subsistence purposes. It will compare current key species and rates of consumption against future projections of species range and abundance to inform potential impacts to the nutritional, cultural and wellbeing contributions of those resources to the community. These projections can be used to inform environmental and public health components of the Tribe’s climate change planning efforts.