Fall 2009 Subsistence Fishery Monitoring On The Colville River
The Colville River fall harvest of arctic cisco (Coregonus autumnalis), or qaaktaq in Iñupiaq, is one of the most important subsistence events annually for residents of Nuiqsut. Increasing oil and gas development in the 1970s along the northern arctic coastal plain and, in particular, the construction of offshore causeways near Prudhoe Bay, led to concerns that the migrations and feeding behavior of arctic cisco would be negatively affected. As a result, monitoring of harvest on the Colville River has been conducted since the mid-1980s. The 2009 fishery monitoring team participated in a community meeting with residents of Nuiqsut on 13 October to present the results of the 2008 program. This meeting is part of an ongoing attempt by fishery monitors to engage stakeholders (including Nuiqsut residents, subsistence fishers, the North Slope Borough [NSB] and ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc. [CPAI]) in discussions on the present and future of the Colville River fall fishery monitoring program. A postseason meeting with the Qaaktaq Panel was held in late October 2010 to present the results of the 2009 program and to discuss concerns or ideas for enhancements to the monitoring program. Monitors also continued the program of daily on-ice harvest interviews, as in previous years. Although the 2009 fishery began around 6 October, unseasonably warm weather and a great deal of overflow due to melting in the second week of October created dangerous river conditions, and most fishers waited to begin fishing until the third week of October. The fishery monitoring team observed or recorded from interviews the harvest of 11,700 fish (all species and mesh sizes combined). arctic cisco (85%) and least cisco (Coregonus sardinella; 9%) comprised the vast majority of the recorded harvest. Fishing effort decreased 15 % compared to 2008, and the observed catch rate for arctic cisco in the Nibliq Channel (~19 fish/adjusted net day) was slightly above the 1986–2007 average (15 fish/adjusted net day). The observed catch rate for least cisco was consistent with the average since 1986. Of the 3 main fishing areas on the Nibliq Channel used in 2009, the Upper Nibliq area (0.0 fish/adjusted net day) saw the lowest observed harvest rate for arctic cisco caught in 7.6-cm nets, though it should be noted that just two 7.6-cm nets were deployed in this area for a total of 7 adjusted net days. Observed harvest rates were highest in the Nibliq Delta (21 fish/adjusted net day) and Nanuk areas (12 fish/adjusted net day). Based on observed catch rates and known adjusted fishing times in the Nibliq by each fisher we estimate a total harvest of nearly 23,000 arctic cisco in 2009. As in 2008, 4, 5, and 6 years were the dominant age classes of arctic cisco harvested in 7.6-cm mesh gill nets; however, arctic cisco harvested in 2009 were larger than those harvested in 2008. It has been reported by USGS in 2009 that recent years have brought increased annual growth to arctic cisco in the Nibliq Delta which may explain why younger fish are bigger on the whole than in 2008. In general fishers appeared to be pleased with the size of the arctic cisco caught in 2009 as well as the size of their overall harvests, despite having a delayed start to the fishery. We expect harvests to increase or remain steady in the coming years due to continuing high densities of young-of-the-year arctic cisco caught in the summer at Prudhoe Bay. These fish should recruit to the fishery in 3 to 4 years.
Data and Resources
Start Date: 2009/10/01
End Date: 2009/11/30