Community Monitoring of the Fish Hole (Big Fish River) near Aklavik, NWT: 2006

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: contaminants, biology, community based monitoring, fisheries assessment

Principal Investigator: Hoyt, Andrea J. (4)
Licence Number: 14084
Organization: Fisheries Joint Management Committee
Licenced Year(s): 2006 2005
Issued: Nov 23, 2006
Project Team: Annie B. Gordon (Elder, advisor, member of West Side Working Group, West Side Working Group, Aklavik Elders Committee), Max Kotokak Sr. (Advisor, member of FJMC, Fisheries Joint Management Committee), Danny C. Gordon (Elder, advisor, member of the West Side Working Gr, West Side Working Group, Aklavik Hunters and Trapp)

Project Description: In the fall of 2004, the West Side Working Group decided to develop a program to monitor the Big Fish River, involving students from the high school, Hunters and Trappers Committee (HTC) members, and elders. This project will include a week-long field trip each year to the Big Fish River, as well as classroom learning, and reporting back to community members. The project will monitor changes in the river shores and bottom as well as water flow, salt in the water, temperature, and fish (including invertebrates). Elders and knowledgeable community members will also tell stories and teach traditional skills to students so they will learn the historical importance of the area for aboriginal people.

The field portion of the Big Fish Community Monitoring project will take place during the traditional harvesting season for char from the Big Fish River. The field crew, including Elders, Hunters and Trappers Committee members, high school students from Moose Kerr School, DFO personnel and FJMC resource biologists. The crew will travel by snowmobile to the Big Fish River, set up camp, and stay there for approximately one week. The field crew will complete portions of a stream habitat survey, water quality survey, and fish survey of the “Fish Hole”, which is to be based on The Streamkeepers Handbook, developed by the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia. Students will learn how to make observations, record data, and report results. At the same time, Elders and HTC members will tell stories, teach traditional skills, and discuss how the environment has changed over the years, using traditional knowledge to help the students develop an understanding of how the environmental changes impact the life of the community and the culture of the people.
The study area, known as the Fish Hole, is the area of the upper Big Fish River previously identified as the main spawning reaches utilised by that system’s stock of char, from the “braided area” of shallows upstream to the falls. Various projects have described the area, particularly Stabler (1998), Sandstrom and Harwood (2002), Stephenson (2003), and Papik et al (2003). The project, Community Monitoring of the Big Fish River, will follow the habitat mapping completed in 1995-1996 by Stabler (1998), in which the habitat of ten reaches were mapped in detail. Following the Streamkeepers Handbook, researchers will conduct the introductory and advanced stream habitat survey, water quality survey, stream invertebrate survey, juvenile fish trapping and identification, and spawner survey (Taccogna and Munro, 1995). As described in the past habitat inventory (Stabler, 1998), researchers will replicate the inventory of the Big Fish River from the falls to the braided area, as ice conditions permit. Researchers will complete a visual count of adults on the spawning ground (DFO, unpublished, cited in Stephenson, 2003), live sample using a seine net to count and measure relative abundance of species, and dead sample a limited number of char, grayling, and northern pike to determine age, growth, vital parameters, and sample for mercury contamination.

The results will be reported back to the community of Aklavik through oral presentations by student and community researchers, to the Aklavik Hunters and Trappers Committee and the Fisheries Joint Management Committee through a written report, and to the general public of the NWT through the Aurora Research Institute (ARI) reporting structure (200 word non-technical summary report by June 2007 and hard copies of final reports to the ARI library).

The study will be conducted in Aklavik for classroom-based work and the Big Fish River Fish Hole for field-based work (68º 17.829'N 136º22.028'W). Base camp location will be the Big Fish River Fish Hole cabin (68 º 17.829'N 136 º 22.028'W).