Addendum to ArcticNet licence # 15213
Principal Investigator: Levesque, Keith R (4)
Licence Number: 15693
Organization: ArcticNet
Licenced Year(s): 2015 2014 2013
Issued: Jun 19, 2015

Objective(s): To collect Baseline data on fish distribution and abundance, particularly Arctic Cod, during summer/fall in the southeastern Beaufort Sea and Amundsen Gulf using the SX90 fish finding sonar; and to assess the effectiveness of active acoustics in detecting and identifying marine mammals at a distance from the research platform.

Project Description: The ArcticNet marine-based research program is carried out from the Canadian research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen. The multi-year sampling program is developed around 3 main research components: 1) a meteorology, ocean & sea ice component; 2) a marine resources and environment component; and 3) a geology/bathymetry component.

1) Meteorology, ocean & sea ice component
The general objective of this research component is to collect data on the ocean-sea ice-atmosphere (OSA) interface over a range of time and space scales, focusing on spatial and temporal variability over diurnal, seasonal and inter-annual time scales.

2) Marine resources and environment component
In the Arctic Ocean, sea-ice dynamics and hydrography will ultimately determine primary production, microbial activity, zooplankton and larval fish dynamics and benthos productivity. The objectives of this research component are: 1) to quantify and map the summer-fall distribution and contamination of the main components of the pelagic and benthic food webs in the study area, and 2) to quantify the response of the pelagic and benthic communities to physical forcing processes over the summer-fall season.

3) Geology/bathymetry component
The major goal of this research component is to conduct a bathymetric and sediment characterization survey to investigate seafloor stability conditions at the outer shelf/upper slope area of the central Beaufort Sea and to provide the necessary geosciences knowledge to understand the distribution of ecologically and biologically sensitive benthic ecosystems. The icebreaker will be used as a research platform to conduct multibeam and sub-bottom surveys, and bottom sediment sampling in the study area.

Survey Protocol
SX90 Sonar
The active acoustics project will use the Kongsberg-Simrad SX90 long range, low frequency (20-30 kHz) fish finding sonar. This sonar operates at a similar frequency to the existing EK60 echosounder on board the Amundsen, but with its omni-directional beam surmounts the narrow beam coverage and detection limitations of the EK60 in the upper surface layer. Target detection and identification using the SX90 sonar can be influenced by the physico-chemical properties of the water column and type of bottom sediments. Hence, before conducting the surveys, a custom 50x50 cm tri-plane reflector will be used as a reference target to calibrate the SX90 sonar. This calibration will provide information on how the physical environment affects sonar observations and in turn, fish or whale detections.

Fish Survey
An SX90 survey will be carried out in a designated area in Amundsen Gulf. The survey area is roughly 10000 km2 with water depths ranging from 30m to 600m. A total of 48-h (non-consecutive) will be spent in the survey area where the ship will run between two and five transects with the SX90 sonar to collect baseline data on fish distribution and abundance, particularly Arctic Cod. All transects will be located at least 10 nautical miles (18.5 km) from the nearest coast. The number of transects for the survey area was determined using a standard fisheries survey calculation, with additional transects added to improve the robustness of the study.

The Amundsen will run transects along the length of the survey area at a vessel speed ranging between 8 and 12 knots (approx. 22km/h). Both the SX90 sonar and EK60 echosounder will be operational during the survey and if fish aggregations are detected, a rectangular mid-water trawl will be deployed to sample the fish and thus enable the validation of the observed echoes.

Opportunistic and Adaptive Surveys
In addition to conducting an active acoustics survey in a designated area in Amundsen Gulf, the ship will be operating the SX90 sonar on an opportunistic basis when in transit between sampling stations. If fish aggregations are detected while in transit and conditions allow, a rectangular mid-water trawl will be deployed to sample the fish.

An adaptive survey approach may also be used while the ship is in transit to reduce the uncertainty associated with large-scale field surveys of populations with a highly skewed distribution (e.g. pelagic fish) or low numbers (e.g. cetaceans). The omni-directional sonar beam of the SX90 allows for observation of the whole water volume up to 2km around the vessel. If fish aggregations or cetaceans are detected at some distance from the ship, the course may be changed to track the targets and increase the number of observations recorded by the sonar and therefore maximize the accuracy of survey results. However, it is important to note that during adaptive surveys for marine mammals (cetaceans or pinnipeds), the ship will always stay at a distance greater than 150 m from the target and the gathering of data with the sonar will last no longer than 10 minutes.

As in past years, research results will be communicated to Inuvialuit organizations and communities through progress reports submitted to the Aurora Research Institute as well as during community visits and regional scientific meetings conducted by ArcticNet researchers. Paper copies of this report were also provided to all 6 Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) communities. As a follow-up, a 4-page fax detailing the ArcticNet marine-based research program in the ISR, including the proposed active acoustics project will be sent to all 6 Inuvialuit Hunters and Trappers Committee’s (HTC’s). This document will summarize the sampling plans, local involvement opportunities, and offer to meet again with the HTCs if needed.

The ArcticNet annual report is also sent out to Inuit partners and Northern organizations. To promote communication between researchers and community members and therefore more easily distribute results and information to and from the communities, ArcticNet co-funds a full time Inuit Research Advisor position in all 4 Inuit regions of Canada (see: http://www.arcticnet.ulaval.ca/research/advisors.php).

All results from ArcticNet’s marine-based research program are made available as peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals. Once the intellectual property rights of the researchers and partners are satisfied for publication, relevant data sets will be incorporated into the central database of ArcticNet (http://www.polardata.ca/) and offered for inclusion in national and international data banks.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from August 20, 2015 to October 1, 2015.