The Narwhal –
Salmon used to be infrequent visitors to the Mackenzie River and communities of the Arctic, but more species have begun to show up in the North more often and in greater numbers than ever before.
“They’re indicating change,” says Karen Dunmall, a research scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans who is overseeing the Arctic Salmon project.
The climate change they’re indicating is affecting the Arctic more potently and quickly than anywhere else. It’s manifesting in thinner ice that forms later and breaks up earlier, warmer rivers, milder winters, longer summers and changes in wildlife and vegetation across the Arctic.
Dunmall’s community-based research has found that although some salmon have been found for generations in communities across the Arctic and up the Mackenzie River, they have always been limited in numbers and species.
“Before 2004, for instance, there was the odd pink salmon that was noticed,” Dunmall told The Narwhal.
But now, every other year, salmon are being noticed by fishermen in more and more communities. They have been participating in the research, sending whole fish and heads to Dunmall for recording and analysis.
“It started out just in the Mackenzie River Delta, and now all of the communities in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (along the Arctic coast) have caught pink salmon.”
And it’s not just pink and chum salmon anymore: other southern species including coho, sockeye and Atlantic salmon are starting to show up as well.