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Broad whitefish (Coregonus nasus) of the lower Mackenzie River: Biological characteristics, commercial and subsistence harvest trends, and local management issues

Treble, Margaret Anne





Anadromous broad whitefish from the lower Mackenzie River region may be comprised of several discrete stocks with mature fish migrating from the Beaufort Sea coast to upstream locations to spawn. People from the communities of Tuktoyaktuk, Aklavik, Inuvik, Ft. McPherson, Tsiigehtchic and Ft. Good Hope harvest broad whitefish for subsistence and commercial purposes from camps scattered throughout the region. Three aspects of broad whitefish management were examined: (1) Biological samples from 1984 to 1989 from the Delta were examined for within-year and/or between-year heterogeneity; (2) Subsistence and commercial harvests were examined, and current harvest levels were estimated; and (3) Local harvesters were interviewed. Differences were observed in certain biological parameters, particularly age- and length- frequency distributions. This variability may be due to the existence of discrete stocks or may be an artifact of small sample sizes and gear selectivity. The annual broad whitefish harvest was estimated to be between 100,000 and 300,000 kg. The subsistence portion was found to comprised 62% to 98% of the total harvest for 1983 to 1990. Commercial fisheries for the local market are small (approximately 5,000 kg), and export fisheries have operated only sporadically. Communities with easy road access were interested in examining the potential for commercial development. Most people interviewed thought the population(s) could support an increased harvest, although there was concern expressed by some who suggested development should proceed cautiously in order to protect the subsistence fishery. Management is the responsibility of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in partnership with the Inuvialuit Fisheries Joint Management Committee and the Gwich'in and Sahtu Renewable Resources Boards. These groups are advised to develop a management plan jointly, and to co-ordinate research activities and commercial development for this shared resource. An adaptive management strategy is proposed in light of the limited biological information available. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

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