Estimating Aquatic Species Physiological Limits (ASPL) through a Forage Fish Monitoring and Observation (FFMO) program in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR)

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: water quality, climate change, fish, community based monitoring, oceanography, fish health

Principal Investigator: Steiner, Nadja (1)
Licence Number: 16626
Organization: Institute of Ocean Sciences - DFO
Licensed Year(s): 2019
Issued: Sep 11, 2019
Project Team: Dr. Helen Drost

Objective(s): To conduct underwater eco-physiological monitoring in remote Inuvialuit coastal areas in both summer and winter seasons, and to develop a
self-sufficient, local community controlled monitoring program, which is directly linked to pan-Arctic coastal monitoring programs, fish physiologists and ecosystem modellers.

Project Description: This licence has been issued for the scientific research application No.4554.

The 3 year project objective is to conduct underwater eco-physiological monitoring in remote Inuvialuit coastal areas in both summer and winter seasons. This will result in critical benchmark data with emphasis on coastal forage fish species during rapid climate change. Another project off-shoot will be a self-sufficient, local community controlled monitoring program, which is directly linked to pan-Arctic coastal monitoring programs, fish physiologists and ecosystem modellers.

The objectives of this project are to:
1. Study how forage fish species and abundance will change in the future.
2. Work with the Joint Secretariat including the Inuvialuit Game Council (IGC) and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC), to implement a forage fish coastal monitoring program that will be supervised by the local Hunters and Trappers Committee (HTC).
3. Train interested community members (selected by the HTC) to use an underwater instrument (CTD) that measures salinity, temperature, depth, oxygen and sedimentation. High resolution video and still images of the coastal habitat are also recorded during the collection of water quality properties.
4. Create the capacity, when additional funding for laboratory work is secured, to collect forage fish (60 fish maximum) to transport to a custom designed climate change and ocean acidification laboratory to understand the long term impacts of rapid warming and decreasing pH on these key food web species. A subset of live fish will be sampled for contaminants and DNA to add to the Aquatic Species Physiological
Limits database (ASPL).
5. Input species physiological limits data into DFO-hosted ASPL database. This database was specifically designed to integrate species physiological limits and Traditional and Indigenous Knowledge (TIK) into climate model downscaling studies that will project impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on forage fish distribution and survival (see publication at this link:
6. The Inuvialuit Forage Fish Monitoring and Observation (IFFMO) project will be based on community directing the monitoring with co-management oversight and support, instrument maintenance and updated training. Frequent IFFMO data reports and community assessment checks for ongoing viability is built into program.

The monitoring data will help to assess the model performance and possibly support model development. The climate model downscaling can project the expected environmental conditions based on various fossil fuel emission scenarios. Environmental conditions drive species distribution and hence food webs. Subsistence harvest impacts can be linked to or mitigated by policy and governance.

Project methods:
This project has six major action items:
1. Coordinate with Hunters and Trappers Committee (HTC) selected community members (fisher, student and elder) to collect forage fish samples (60 fish maximum);
2. Train for community lead underwater data collection using a CTD/DC instrument;
3. Integrate the benchmark CTD/DC data with benchmark Traditional & Indigenous knowledge (TIK);
4. Incorporate Indigenous Languages into science reports to support community goals and to provide base line context;
5. Input TIK and physiological limits data into the Aquatic Species Physiological Limits Database;
6. Link to species distribution high resolution computer models to forecast impacts to subsistence fisheries; and,
7. Communicate results back to the community and co-management boards.
The local HTC will identify local residents to assist (1 elder, 1 youth and fishers) to lead the IFFMO 2019. This is the model that will be used moving forward to include a second Inuvialuit coastal community in 2021/2020. A CTD (rugged version without video) will be housed with the Olokhaktomi HTC in Ulukhaktok to allow trained fishers (with boats/ice sleds) to continue data collection in the winter season with ongoing program and data management support.

Helen Drost will teach CTD/DC community monitoring techniques based on the lessons learned from CROW, Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) teaching modules and from learning materials she developed when teaching the Environmental Technician field techniques course at the Arctic College in Cambridge Bay, 2018. These teaching modules will be reviewed by social scientists and e-learing modules will be created. The CTD/DC training will also be combined with fishing to collect samples for contaminant analysis.

Initial results from the regional climate models indicate that reductions in ice algae may have direct impacts on Arctic cod and may explain why beluga or seals are more abundant in one year than in another in specific regions. The research team will study this further and then run the models for the future and assess potential changes over the next 10, 30, or 50 years.

The results will be communicated at IGC meetings, community reports, peer reviewed publications, CBCNorth radio presentations (the team were able to go on Northwind, hosted by Wanda McLeod, to describe the project before our community tour in March, 2019), Reports to funding agencies (Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC), Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC), the Hamlet office and the Hunters and Trappers Committees.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from September 4, 2019 to December 31, 2019.