Northern Policy & Development

Current research projects (2019-2023)

Supporting sustainable development of community Greenland halibut fisheries in the Eastern Canadian Arctic

Global fisheries to date have been overexploited, emphasizing the need for caution in exploiting relatively pristine environments and a precautionary approach to management. The Arctic marine ecosystem hosts some of the globe’s few remaining healthy fisheries, but it is under increasing pressure from fisheries development and climate change. Inuit communities in the North are rapidly growing, raising challenges for Canada’s newest territory to sustainably explore, exploit, and manage new resource opportunities while balancing livelihoods, cultural and health issues with the environment on which they depend. This research program, which builds on extensive work by the project team in the Arctic since 2010, will use data derived from state of the art telemetry technologies to monitor the localized (near four coastal communities) and basin scale (along offshore banks) movements and connectivity patterns of one of the most important commercial fish, Greenland halibut. Coupling these telemetry data with community fisheries surveys, traditional tag recapture data, and unique mobile receiver platforms (narwhal bioprobes, commercial fishing gear, and autonomous vehicles) will allow the development of a novel capture-mark-recapture modelling framework. Derived data will unveil previously unknown movement behaviours of this deep-water species and the developed framework will allow the first estimation of key Greenland halibut demographic parameters to advance management and better understand fisheries allocation strategies. Through equipping mobile and fixed monitoring platforms with an array of ocean sensors combined with historical/current transect data on pelagic zooplankton/fish biomass, the project will also generate abiotic and biotic data to understand the drivers of Greenland halibut and narwhal movements. Overall, this project will generate important information on fish movements that will be pivotal for regional fisheries management, while also monitoring the Baffin Bay narwhal population to improve knowledge on stock size and structure (Research Priority 3) and community harvesting quotas (Research Priority 4) for both species. Given the economic potential and importance of Greenland halibut and the cultural and health importance of narwhal to Northern communities, we anticipate this project will be key for shaping future sustainable management practices of resources in the region. This project continues to build an integrative framework to assist the growth of knowledge from combined telemetry and TEK across the Arctic, and will develop a fisheries modelling framework that is globally relevant.