Elson Lagoon Summer Fishery Study

Principal Investigators: Todd Sformo, Craig George
Collaborators: Bill Morris (ADFG), Larry Moulton (MJM), BLM, ABR, Inc.
Funding: NSB
Summary: The Elson Lagoon fishery is an important subsistence resource adjacent to the community of Barrow.  Residents deploy gillnets in the Lagoon as soon as there is substantial open water and there is no risk of losing nets in ice flow.  Fishers will continue to fish Elson Lagoon with gillnets until freeze-up.  Ice fishing occurs on the Lagoon shortly after the ice is safe to walk on.  Fishers typically target saffron cod (uugaq) and arctic cod (iqalugaq) during the ice fishing season.  Other fish that are harvested are pink salmon (amaqtuuq), chum salmon (iqalugruaq), least cisco (iqalusaaq), broad whitefish (aanaakłiq), and arctic char (paikłuk) . The ice fishing has not been closely monitored but the harvest is captured in the general NSB harvest survey.  Then, in the summer of 2006 the NSB Department of Wildlife Management initiated a program to monitor the Elson Lagoon Fishery.

This study is designed to investigate the fishery in the Elson Lagoon, estimate the catch rates and effort, total harvest, identification of species harvested and analyze changes in the fishery. We maintain two fyke nets in Elson Lagoon for our own sampling effort as well as conduct daily net surveys of subsistence fishermen during July and August. We identify the species of the fish, take body length and weight measurements and collect genetic samples (fin clips). Catch rates and total catch are calculated for the season. Water temperature and salinity measurements are also noted.

Summer 2013 Update: Todd Sformo has been surveying fish species in North Salt Lagoon and Elson Lagoon using a fyke net for the last three summers. This survey will help us better understand the number of species present, size and age distribution, health status of the fish, and the water temperature and salinity. For 2013, over 5,000 fish were caught and released with 14 species identified, mostly least cisco and fourhorn sculpin. Few parasites were observed, and fish appear to be healthy, which is comparable to previous years.

Results:

2008 Harvest Surveys in Elson Lagoon: Summary Preliminary Findings

Moulton, L.L., J.C. Seigle. 2012. Surveys of fish in Elson Lagoon during 1996 and 2009-2010. Final report, March 2012, prepared for North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, Barrow, Alaska. 97 pp.

Sformo, T.L. and J.C. George. 2019. Long-term fish sampling by fyke net in Elson Lagoon and North Salt Lagoon near Utqiagvik, Alaska, 1996, 2009-2017. Tehcnical Report NSB-DWM-02-19 prepared for North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management. 

Posters:

Sformo, T., et al. 2015. Environmental DNA (eDNA) assessment of Arctic fish in the Beaufort Sea (Elson Lagoon), Barrow, Alaska. Poster presented at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium, Anchorage, Alaska, January 2015. 

Sformo, T., et al. 2017. Fyke net fish study (2011-2016), Elson Lagoon, Utqiaġvik (Barrow), Alaska. Poster presented at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium, Anchorage, Alaska, January 2017. 

Ernest Nageak holds up Dolly Varden taken from net at Elson Lagoon. Photo: John Seigle

Ernest Nageak holds up Dolly Varden taken from net at Elson Lagoon. Photo: John Seigle

Todd Sformo and Samantha Simpson with their chum salmon catch of the day. Photo: Larry Moulton

Other studies in Elson Lagoon:

Okkonen, S. 2016. Sea level measurements along the Alaskan Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Final report to BOEM, OCS Study BOEM 2016-075.

Okkonen, Stephen, and Todd Sformo. 2017. Relationships among sea level, hydrography and circulation in coastal waters  near Utqiaġvik (Barrow), Alaska. Poster presesnted at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium, Anchorage, Alaska, January 2017. 

Subsistence Use Surveys

Elson Lagoon Subsistence Fishers Survey

UAF Fisheries graduate student, Shelley Woods Cotton, spent the summers of 2010 and 2011 working with the NSB DWM interviewing subsistence fishers in Barrow. The poster below outlines some of the other experiences that Shelley was able to participate in while working with us. The results of her study should be out by next spring (2012).

Cotton, S. 2012. Subsistence Salmon Fishing in Beaufort Sea Communities (Thesis). University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska.

Woods, S., George, C., Carothers, C. 2012. An interdisciplinary description of the Elson Lagoon subsistence fishery. Poster presented at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage, Alaska, in January, 2012. 

Cotton, S.S.D. 2012. Subsistence salmon fishing in Beaufort Sea communities. Master of Science Thesis, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska. 99 pp.

Carothers, C., S. Cotton, K. Moerlein. 2013. Subsistence use and knowledge of salmon in Barrow and Nuiqsut, Alaska. Final report prepared for BOEM, OCS Study BOEM 2013-0015.

Carothers, C., T.L. Sformo, S. Cotton, J.C. George, P.A.H. Westley. 2019. Pacific salmon in the rapidly changing Arctic: Exploring local knowledge and emergina fisheries in Utqiagvik and Nuiqsut, Alaska. Arctic 72(3):273-288. DOI: 10.14430/arctic68876. 

Ecology of Forage Fishes in the Arctic Nearshore

Principal Investigators: J. Craig George
Collaborators: Johanna Vollenweider, Ron Heintz (NOAA), Mark Barton (Florida International University), Leandra de Sousa
Funding: NSB Shell Baseline Studies Program
Summary: This program was to help better understand the ecology, distribution and abundance of forage fish species that are predated by subsistence species, such as seals and beluga. In particular, the contribution of lagoon systems to these fisheries was investigated. This study came about in response to the North Slope hunter's concerns about what was happening to the prey of key subsistence species.  

Final Report: Vollenweider, J.J.,  et al. 2018. Ecology of Forage Fishes in the Arctic Nearshore. Final report to the NSB Shell Baseline Studies Program, July 2018. Final report to the NSB Shell Baseline Studies Program.

Kuk River Sampling Project

Principal Investigator: J. Craig George, Todd Sformo
Collaborators: William Morris (Alaska Dept of Fish and Game), Lawrence Moulton (MJM Research), John Seigle (ABR, Inc.)
Funding: NSB, ADFG
Summary: The Kuk is one of the larger rivers flowing into the Chukchi Sea on the North Slope of Alaska that has never been adequately surveyed to document species present and habitat conditions. Residents of Wainwright use the fish resources within the river system. The river is likely to be crossed by pipelines connecting any Chukchi development to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS).  Industry is also interested in the possibility of dredging the lower Kuk to allow staging of large vessels.
The NSB Dept. of Wildlife Management is collaborating on a survey of fish and habitat conditions in the Kuk this summer. The need and interest in this fish work has been expressed and discussed at various meetings between DWM staff, residents of Wainwright, and NSB Fish & Game Committee members.

Kuk River project flyer

Bradley, P., W. Morris, L. Moulton. 2016. Fish and aquatic habitat surveys in drainages of Wainwright Inlet and Peard Bay, 2010-2015. Technical Report NO. 16-08 prepared for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Habitat, Fairbanks, Alaska.

NOAA Fish Surveys - Beaufort Sea

Principal Investigator: Scott Johnson and John Thedinga, NOAA
Collaborators: J. Craig George, Ph.D.
Funding: NOAA, NSB
Summary: The original objective was to identify fish assemblages that may be disturbed by the addition or removal of beach sediments. We sampled fish with a beach seine at 18 sites near Barrow from August 13–14, 2006; 11 of the sites had been previously sampled in 2004 and 2005. However, the study was continued since very little is known about nearshore marine fish near Barrow.   Mean catch per seine haul was greatest at Point Barrow (903 fish, n = 2) and least at Cooper Island (<3 fish, n = 6). The most abundant species captured at the Chukchi Sea sites (Barrow and Point Barrow) were juvenile sculpin (Cottidae) and juvenile cod (Gadidae), whereas the most abundant species captured at the Beaufort Sea sites (Tapkaluk Islands and Cooper Island) were capelin (Mallotus villosus) and Pacific sand lance (Ammodytes hexapterus). All of these fish are important forage fish for marine mammals and birds. Overall, the most abundant fish captured were juvenile sculpin (Kanayuq) comprising 68% of the total catch, however capelin were found in unexpectedly high concentrations for this latitude. Shallow waters near Barrow provide habitat for at least 17 fish species; most fish that we caught were juveniles. This study provides only a “snapshot”, temporally and spatially, of fish distribution and habitat near Barrow.

Seining in near shore waters and deep water trawling

Johnson, S.W., J.F. Thedinga. 2004. Fish assemblages near Barrow, Alaska - August 2004. NOAA Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service, Auke Bay Laboratory, Juneau, Alaska. Unpublished report, October 2004.

Thedinga, J.F., S.W. Johnson. 2006. Fish assemblages near Barrow, Alaska–August 2005. NOAA Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service, Auke Bay Laboratory, Juneau, Alaska. Unpublished report, January 2006.

This study involved sampling near Barrow with beach seine nets, eleven sites sampled in 2004 and fifteen sites sampled in 2005. The studies were continued through 2009 using other funding sources and NSB participation and equipment. Results show that the Chukchi coast and Beaufort Sea near Barrow are important rearing grounds for capelin (Paŋmaksraq), scuplins (Kanayuq) and juvenile arctic cod (Iqalugaq).  All of these species are important forage fish for birds and marine mammals. Such coastal spawning/rearing areas are quite vulnerable to oil spills. Thus these areas should receive special protection in the event of a spill.

This poster includes data through the 2007 season.

This poster includes data from 2007-2009.

Using information from this study, and others, NOAA has put together an online Nearshore Fish Atlas and Shorezone Habitat Mapping tool.  Using this tool, you can find out where fish were caught and in what type of habitat.

nearshorefishatlas

Go to the Nearshore Fish Atlas of Alaska: to search the Database.

2008 Beaufort Sea Survey

This Cruise Report summarizes the 2008 Beaufort Sea Survey conducted by NOAA and MMS, on July 27-August 30, 2008. This study used bottom trawl surveys, acoustic surveys and oceanographic data in order to estimate the species composition and abundance of the marine fishes and invertebrates in the Beaufort Sea. Results of this survey provided recommendations for future monitoring necessary for any offshore development.

Summary of Fish Survey Data from lagoons, beaches, nearshore, pelagic and shelf habitats in the western Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

Rand, K.M., E.A. Logerwell. 2010. The first demersal trawl survey of benthic fish and invertebrates in the Beaufort Sea since the late 1970s. Polar Biology, DOI:10.1007/s00300-010-0900-2.

Thedinga, J.F., et al. 2013. Nearshore fish assemblages of the northeastern Chukchi Sea, Alaska. Arctic 66(3):257-268.

Logerwell, E., et al. 2015. Fish communities across a spectrum of habitats in the western Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea. Progress in Oceanography 136:115-132. DOI: 10.1016/j.pocean.2015.05.013

Nodal, A., et al. 2018. A first look at weekly variability in relative abundance of plankton in Arctic nearshore habitats near Barrow, AK. Poster presentation to the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage, Alaska, January 2018.

Barton, M., et al. 2018. Assimilation of carbon and nitrogen isotopes in a common Arctic nearshore fish. Poster presentation to the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage, Alaska, January 2018.

Other Surveys:

Fechhelm, R.G., P.C. Craig, J.S. Baker, B.J. Gallaway. 1984. Fish distribution and use of nearshore waters in the northeastern Chukchi Sea. Final report prepared by LGL Ecological Research Associates, Inc., for NOAA OMPA/OCSEAP.

Moulton, L.L., K.E. Tarbox. 1987. Analysis of arctic cod movements in the Beaufort Sea nearshore region, 1978-79. Arctic 40(1):43-49.

Johnson, S.W., et al. 2010. Fish fauna in nearshore waters of a barrier island in the western Beaufort Sea, Alaska. U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA Technical Memo. NMFS-AFSC-210. 28 pp.

Boswell, K.M., et al. 2012. ACES: Report of nearshore sampling activities during August 2012. Report to the North Slope Borough, Barrow, Alaska. 21 pp.

Eisner, L. et al. 2012. Pelagic fish and zooplankton species assemblages in relation to water mass charcteristics in the northern Bering and southeast Chukchi Seas. Polar Biology, DOI:10.1007/s00300-012-1241-0.

Boswell, K.M., et al. 2013. Arctic coastal ecosystem survey (ACES): Report of nearshore sampling activities during summer of 2013. Report to North Slope Borough, Barrow, Alaska. 20 pp.

ADFG Fish Surveys

ADFG Fish Resource Monitor Guide   

ADFG Fish Resource Inventory Maps (see Map here)

ADFG Anadromous Waters Catalog

Bradley, P., W. Morris, L. Moulton. 2016. Fish and Aquatic Habitat Surveys in the Topagoruk, Chipp, and Meade Rivers, 2012-2016. Technical Report No. 16-07. Division of Habitat, Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Colville River Fishery Monitoring

ABR, Inc., Sigma Plus, Statistical Consulting Services, Stephen R. Braund & Associates, and Kuukpik Subsistence Oversight Panel, Inc. 2007. Variation in the abundance of arctic cisco in the Colville River: Analysis of existing data and local knowledge. Volumes I and II. Prepared for the U.S. Department of Interior. MMS Alaska OCS Region, Anchorage, AK. Technical Report No. MMS 2007-042.

Daigneault, M.J., C. Reiser. 2007. Colville River fall fishery monitoring, 2006. Report prepared by LGL Alaska Research Associats, Inc., for ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc., Anchorage, AK. 42 pp.

Moulton, L.L., J. Pausanna. 2007. Harvest rates for the 2006 Colville River broad whitefish and burbot fisheries. Report prepared by MJM Research for ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc., Anchorage, AK. 77 pp.

Seigle, J.C., J.P. Parrett. 2009. Fall 2008 subsistence fishery monitoring on the Colville River. Report prepared by ABR, Inc., for ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc., Anchorage, AK. 56 pp.

Moulton, L.L., B. Seavey, J. Pausanna. 2010. History of an under-ice subsistence fishery for Arctic cisco and least cisco in the Colville River, Alaska. Arctic 63(4):381-290.

Seigle, J.C., et al. 2011. Fall 2010 subsistence fishery monitoring on the Colville River. Report prepared by ABR, Inc., for ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc., Anchorage, AK. 88 pp.

Seigle, J.C., J.M. Gottschalk. 2012. Fall 2011 subsistence fishery monitoring on the Colville River. Report prepared by ABR, Inc., for ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc., Anchorage, AK. 93 pp.

ABR, Inc. 2015. A summary of water quality analyses from the Colville River and other high latitude Alaskan and Canadian Rivers. Report prepared for North Slope Borough, Barrow, AK. 29 pp.

Other Surveys

Philo, L.M., J.C. George, L.L. Moulton. 1993. The occurrence and description of anadromous fish in the Dease Inlet/Admiralty Bay, Alaska Area, 1988-1990. Report to the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, Barrow, AK. 168 pp.

Wilson, W.J., B.J. Gallaway. 1997. Synthesis in applied fish ecology: Twenty years of studies on effects of causeway development on fish populations in the Prudhoe Bay Region, Alaska. American Fisheries Society Symposium 19:326-339.

Kline, T.C. et al. 1998. Natural isotope indicators of fish migration at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 55:1494-1502.

Fechhelm, R.G., et al. 1999. Prudhoe Bay causeways and the summer coastal movements of arctic cosco and least cisco. Arctic 52(2):139-151. 

Seigle, J.C. 2003. Determination of marine migratory behavior and its relationship to selected physical traits for least cisco (Coregonus sardinella) of the Western Arctic Coastal Plain, Alaska. Master of Science Thesis, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon.

Brown, R.J. 2008. Life history and demographic characteristics of Arctic cisco, dolly varden, and other fish species in the Barter Island Region of Northern Alaska. Alaska Fisheries Technical Report Number 101, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fairbanks Fish and Wildlife Field Office, Fairbanks, Alaska.

McCain, K.A., S.W. Raborn. 2016. Beaufort Sea Fish Monitoring Study of Nearshore Fishes in the Prudhoe Bay Region: 2015 Annual Report. Prepared for Hilcorp Alaska, LLC, Anchorage, Alaska, by LGL Ecological Research Associates, Inc., Bryan, Texas.