Canadian Beaufort Sea: Marine Ecosystem Assessment 2017

Canadian Beaufort Sea: Marine Ecosystem Assessment 2017

Sampling sites of the 2017 Marine Environmental Assessment of the Canadian Beaufort Sea

Sampling sites of the 2017 Marine Environmental Assessment of the Canadian Beaufort Sea

About the mission

From August 1 to September 11, 2017, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) led an ambitious multi-year, multi-disciplinary research mission to Canada’s Arctic to study the marine species and habitats of the Beaufort Sea.

Aboard the vessel F/V Frosti, DFO researchers worked alongside local Inuvialuit from the communities of Tuktoyaktuk and Ulukhaktok, as well as scientists from the universities of Waterloo, Laval, and Memorial. They studied the ecosystem of the Beaufort Sea to examine how marine animals use the ocean habitat, how they may respond to climate change, and what kinds of species exist in these areas of Canada’s Arctic. This long term study helps us better understand changes in ice cover and location, temperature, and shifting ocean currents, and how these changes can affect Arctic marine life and productivity.

The research team also examined Arctic Cod, an offshore fish that has been identified as important to the Beaufort Sea food web; conducted first-ever surveys in high Arctic zones such as M’Clure Strait north of Banks Island, Northwest Territories if conditions permit; and studied ecological relationships that may affect species in the newly designated Anguniaqvia niqiqyuam (Ung-u-niak-via Ni-kig-e-um) Marine Protected Area.

About the Beaufort Sea

There are two main features that make the Beaufort Sea’s environment unique to marine life: the sea shifts every year from completely ice-covered to open water in the short span of a few months; and each spring it receives huge amounts of freshwater from the Mackenzie River, which brings in nutrients, carbon, and sediments from land.

The livelihoods and culture of the Inuvialuit and Gwich’in peoples is dependent on the health and resilience of the Beaufort Sea ecosystem. Scientists and Indigenous people are currently working together to gain greater insight into the interconnectivities and complex changes occurring in this Arctic marine area.

The team
Principal Investigators
  • Dr. Jim Reist – Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Freshwater Institute)
  • Dr. Andrea Niemi - Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Freshwater Institute)
  • Dr. Christine Michel - Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Freshwater Institute)
  • Dr. Bill Williams - Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Institute of Ocean Sciences)
  • Dr. Stephane Gautier - Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Institute of Ocean Sciences)
  • Dr. Phillippe Archambault – University of Laval
  • Dr. Maxime Geoffroy – Memorial University
  • Dr. Michael Power – University of Waterloo
  • Dr. Margaret Docker – University of Manitoba
  • Dr. Jason Treberg – University of Manitoba
  • Dr. Denis Roy – University of Windsor
  • Dr. Peter Ross – Ocean Pollution Program
Chief Scientists for the Field Work
  • Andrew Majewski (Leg 1) – Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Freshwater Institute)
  • Dr. Tracey Loewen (Leg 2) – Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Freshwater Institute)
Science Staff for the Field Work
  • Dr. Andrea Niemi – Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Freshwater Institute)
  • Jane Eert – Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Institute of Ocean Sciences)
  • Sarah Zimmerman – Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Institute of Ocean Sciences)
  • Alain Dupuis – Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Freshwater Institute)
  • Ashley Stasko – Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Freshwater Institute)
  • Rachel Hussherr – University of Manitoba
  • Valerie Cypihot – Université du Québec à Rimouski – (Institut des Sciences de la Mer de Rimouski)
  • Amanda Timmerman – University of Victoria
Inuvialuit Participants
  • Stephanie Nigiyok – community of Ulukhaktok
  • Verna Lee Pokiak – community of Tuktoyaktuk
Shore Support
  • Oksana Schimnowski – Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Freshwater Institute)
Research tools and techniques
Hydroacoustics

Hydrophones are attached to the ship and emit sound waves at different frequencies to the seafloor. When a sound wave encounters an animal or object in the water, it shows up as dots or “targets” on an echogram (an image on the ship’s computer). This technique helps us “see” what is happening under the ocean’s surface and can be used to track various species, from plankton to whales.

Trawling nets

While hydroacoustics shows scientists that something is in the water and what depth it is at, it cannot identify exactly what it is. To identify these species, we use trawling nets to capture them for on board analysis. Using the combination of hydroacoustics and trawling nets allows us to identify species in the Beaufort Sea and estimate their population sizes.

The F/V Frosti. © Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

The F/V Frosti. © Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

Photo gallery

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