Research Document - 2004/052

Status of Cambridge Bay Anadromous Arctic Char Stocks

By Day, A.C., B. de March


Harvest (1960 to 2003) and population parameter data (1971 to 2003) for the commercial arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) fishery of Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut are presented and analysed. Environmental conditions of the Cambridge Bay area, various aspects of arctic char ecology and response to harvest are summarized and assessed. Historically, commercial landings were harvested primarily from 6 stock complexes (Ekalluk , Paliryuak, Halovik, Lauchlan, Ellice and Jayco Rivers). The Perry River was fished from 1977 to 1981 and in 1991 and has not been fished since. The Ellice River has not been fished since 1999. Since the inception of the fishery in 1960, total commercial landings have averaged 41,000 kgs round weight per year with total landings for this period equal to 1,799,099 kgs round weight. Other fishing sites have also been harvested occasionally but for 4 years or less at any given site (Kulgayuk River, Padliak and Elu Inlets and Starvation Cove). In 1988 a new fishery developed at HTA Lake (Takyoknitok) and since then, between 1500 and 3000 kgs round weight of char have been harvested from this system annually via a stone weir except for 5 years during this period when the fishery did not occur. The subsistence harvest of char is substantial, estimated to equal approximately one half the size of the commercial harvest, and probably is concentrated in areas close to Cambridge Bay such as the Ekalluk River. The fishery and its supportive stocks are considered stable and fished at or below their sustainable rates of harvest. All of the primary stock complexes were considered to have a low to moderate level of risk of over exploitation under current harvest regimes, with the exception of the Ellice River stock complex. Population parameter data of Ellice River char, the only mainland fishery for which data was presented, was atypical in comparison to other stock complexes in that it demonstrated a consistent decline in modal age, a consistent increase in mean condition factor and round weight, a faster growth rate and trends in recruitment fluctuation which differed from those trends observed in other fisheries. Ellice River char were considered to have a moderate to high level of risk of over exploitation but this risk is lessened by the fact that this river was fished only once between 1997 and 2003. Significant fluctuations in recruitment, expressed as relative strengths of specific birth years or year classes, were found in samples from all fisheries examined and temporal patterns of both specific year class strengths and the sampling years in which they occurred were similar for all fisheries with the exception of the Ellice River. Trends in mean age, mean fork length, mean round weight and mean condition factor were highly correlated with trends in relative year class strength.

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