Time to count Arctic char

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A $20 reward is being offered to fishers in the Kivalliq region who will bring in the stomach contents and muscle from their catch of Arctic char to their local hunters and trappers organizations (HTO).

The project is being run by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in partnership with HTOs across the region.

Grade 12 student David Kringayark waits for one to come along as grade 10 student Shane Mapsalak admires his catch during a Tuugaalik High School day out on the land for a day of hunting and fishing near Naujaat this spring. Photo courtesy of Julia MacPherson

Kangiqliniq HTO spokesperson Clayton Tartak of Rankin Inlet said the project started during a meeting with Fisheries and Oceans Canada in February.

He said during that meeting, a point of knowledge raised by Naujaat elder Paul Malliki kick-started the process.

“He told the meeting he was taught as a kid to check the stomach contents of fish he caught, and he still does that today,” said Tartak.

“From the conversation we had following Paul’s statements, it was determined that we could do a scientific study on stomach content – a stable isotope analysis that tells you what the fish are eating.

“Six of the seven Kivalliq communities are participating in this project, with only Baker Lake not involved.”

Tartak said fishers pick up the sample bags at their local HTO and, when they catch fish, they simply take out the guts and a small piece of flesh and put them into the two bags provided.

He said the bags are then stored in a freezer to await being shipped to a lab in Winnipeg for both a stable isotope analysis and a stomach content analysis.

“We’ll have a far better understanding of how our fish population is doing once we have those results, and they should also tell us why some of our fish aren’t as red anymore, so that will be interesting to see,” he said.

“There’s no real concerns with the process as it’s pretty straight-forward work, but it’s work well worth doing.

“Moving forward, we’re hoping to expand this project into other parts of the ecosystem to ultimately include everything from shrimp or krill up to beluga whales and polar bears.

“Right now, we’re looking at planning for the next three years of data collection and, at that time, it will be decided if the project is still worthwhile to continue with.”