ArcticFish: Fisheries resources in the changing Canadian Arctic Ocean
The Canadian sector of the Arctic Ocean experiences a rapid decrease in the extent and duration of its seasonal sea-ice cover. In the Eastern Canadian Arctic, increasing productivity and access to fisheries grounds have boosted commercial fishing opportunities. The value of fisheries landings in Nunavut has increased from 38 to 86 million $ from 2006-2014, and fisheries currently represent a key sector of the Northern economy. Moreover, climate change has resulted in increased abundances of boreal fish species in the Arctic and altered distributions of indigenous species. Changes in fish composition could result in additional fishing opportunities in the Canadian Arctic. However, while the demersal ecosystem components have received increased attention, the distributions and dynamics of the main pelagic forage fish species (key prey of commercially exploited demersal fish) remain unknown. This project will address critical knowledge gaps in pelagic ecosystems, which will facilitate better forecasting of how ongoing climatic changes will affect fisheries productivity.
Seven southern and Northern Highly Qualified Personal (HQPs) will be hired to address three core questions: 1) What is the current composition, abundance and distribution of pelagic fish and zooplankton in the Canadian Arctic?; 2) How will the highly-specialized Arctic cod, the most abundant forage fish in the Arctic Ocean, adapt to a shorter sea-ice season and a reduction of summer sea-ice cover?; and 3) How will increased abundance of boreal zooplankton and fish in the Arctic impact the distribution and abundance of indigenous forage species and commercially harvested groundfish? In addition to shedding new light on Arctic pelagic ecosystems, ArcticFish will inform Nunavut fisheries stakeholders, local communities and governmental agencies by providing critical information for the sustainable exploitation of Greenland halibut and other groundfish resources in Baffin Bay, and the creation of an international MPA in Northern Baffin Bay. Finally, this project will contribute to the training of a new generation of Arctic fisheries researchers and Northern HQPs.