Skip Navigation

The Importance of Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Conservation

  • The Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office (FWO) focuses its conservation efforts primarily in the main Hawaiian Islands, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the territories of Guam and American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Each of these islands in the Pacific have been inhabited by indigenous societies who have adapted a culture and foundation of knowledge with the plants and animals around them.

    The term Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) came into widespread use in the 1980ï¿Šï¾»s, but the practice of traditional ecological knowledge is as old as Pacific cultures themselves. The term is usually defined as a complex knowledge, practice and beliefs regarding the relationship between humans and their environment which is used and passed down across generations. Other terms that are used interchangeably with TEK include: Traditional Knowledge (TK), indigenous knowledge (IK), Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS), and folk knowledge.

    Centuries old observations preserved with chants, song, story and dance have been globally recognized as a resource to integrate with conservation efforts for endangered species. The cultural traditions of living in coastal communities have also been used to inform scientists developing models to mitigate climate change.

    The Pacific islands FWO utilizes Traditional Ecological Knowledge in a number of ways: we partner with local communities to restore important habitats traditionally used for fishing and hunting. Our office incorporates the use of diacritical marks used in Hawaiian, Chamorro and Samoan names for the plants and animals described in our Species Status Assessments. Habitat restoration plans reference songs and chants to develop a broader understanding of a species and its relationship to its habitat and the local community. We have also prioritized coastal communities to protect culturally important turtle habitats from poaching and cultural sites from rising sea levels. These are just some ways the Pacific Islands FWO promotes Traditional Ecological Knowledge. For further reading, please refer to the links provided below.

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Traditional Ecological Knowledge website (link)

    Traditional Ecological Knowledge for Service Scientists (link)

    Integrating the Use of Traditional Ecological Knowledge into U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (link)

Return to main navigation