Alberta-Northwest Territories Transboundary Fish Monitoring Program: Slave River
Principal Investigator: Beveridge, Meghan (3)
Licence Number: 16622
Organization: Government of the Northwest Territories
Licensed Year(s): 2019
Issued: Sep 05, 2019
Project Team: Kelly Munkittrick; Paul Jones; Tim Toth; Christopher Cunada; Annie Levasseur; Meghan Beveridge; Gila Somers; Juanetta Sanderson; Nicole Dion; Ryan Gregory; Kevin Smith; Robert Jenkins; Erin Kelly; Mark McMaster

Objective(s): To conduct contaminant and fish indicator sampling, which would provide fish health indicators in the Athabasca and Peace River drainages, as well as historical data on normal ranges at reference sites.

Project Description: This licence has been issued for the scientific research application No.4548.

The objectives of the fish monitoring program are to:
a) Repeat the contaminant and fish indicator sampling that occurred during historical (1990-1995 and 2011-2015) programs;
b) Expand the species list to include fish sampled under the Oil Sands Monitoring, which would provide fish health indicators in the Athabasca and Peace River drainages, as well as historical data on normal ranges at reference sites;
c) Conduct work related to identifying invasive species and relative abundance information; and,
d) Support the development of community fish camps in Ft. Smith and/or Ft. Resolution.

The research team will be sampling fish in the Slave River (burbot, lake whitefish, walleye, northern pike) as well as species included in Oil Sands Monitoring program (white sucker (Catostomus commersoni) and trout-perch (Percopsis omiscomaycush); or slimy sculpin (Cottous cognatus) if trout-perch are unavailable).

The timing and method of sampling fish will vary according to spawning seasons, community fishing practices, and historic sampling programs. In September 2019, the team will sample whitefish, walleye, northern pike, and white sucker at Fort Smith and Fort Resolution. Target sample sizes will be 20 adult males and 20 adult females collected by gillnet and supplemented by angling if necessary. The lengths and weights of these fish will be measured and tissues will be collected for contaminant analyses. The team will also sample trout-perch, using electrofishing equipment or seining and targeting 20 adult males and 20 adult females.

In December 2019/January 2020, the team will sample burbot and walleye. Burbot will be caught under ice by jigging or set lines near Ft. Smith and sampled for contaminants, targeting 5 males and 5 females. Working with community subsistence harvesters, walleye will be collected near Ft. Resolution under ice by gillnets, targeting 200 fish collected for population assessment.

In either fall 2019 or September 2020, the research team will consider pilot gillnetting with community fishermen to identify invasive fish species and assessing fish populations and communities. Few methods exist for assessing fish populations and communities in large non-wadable rivers. The purpose of this pilot gillnetting will be to test different approaches and net type, such as multi-mesh gillnets or Riverine Index Netting (RIN) nets (per the Province of Ontario’s RIN protocols).

NWT and Alberta have committed to the ongoing monitoring of fish in the NWT. The research team expect to repeat this sampling work every 5 years to ensure the program meets program targets.

During the meetings with the Slave River and Delta Partnership (SRDP), members mentioned that in addition to in-person meetings and reports, posters are effective communication tools. The team will circulate posters sharing preliminary results when available, and follow up with in-person meetings (through the SRDP) accompanied with technical and plain language reports detailing the findings of the monitoring program.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from September 9, 2019 to December 31, 2019.