Cod from multi-mesh nets

Towards a Sustainable Fishery for Nunavummiut

Affordable access to safe, nutritious and culturally relevant food is one of the biggest challenges facing the Nunavummiut, the people of Nunavut. This lack of affordable, nutritious foods is linked to growing health problems, including diabetes and childhood rickets.

Fishing in NunuvatAccelerated melting of Arctic sea ice due to climate change is increasing access to arguably the last remaining under-exploited fishery in the Northern Hemisphere. This increased accessibility, primarily to Arctic char, but also to Arctic cod and Northern shrimp, coupled with a developed, sustainable, sciencebased fishing plan will offer opportunities for employment and economic benefits for Nunavut communities as well as greater food security. It is the Nunavummiut that should be the beneficiaries of these resources, rather than foreign fishing fleets.

Understanding the genetic differences among these fish populations is key to developing that plan. Dr. Virginia K. Walker of Queen’s University and colleagues together with the Nunavut communities will integrate traditional and local knowledge with leading-edge genomic science and bioinformatics to gain an understanding of the genomes of these fish populations. This will allow monitoring of their migration, characteristics and adaptation and inform strategies to maintain genetically diverse and healthy stocks.

The project with a total funding of $5.6 million for Genome Canada’s 2014 Large-Scale Applied Research Program (LSARP), will work toward strengthening Nunavut fisheries, augment sovereignty claims in the Canadian Arctic, increase employment and economic development opportunities, ensure access to a healthy food source, and improve food security for the people of Nunavut.

Project leaders are: Virginia K. Walker, Stephen C. Lougheed, and Peter Van Coeverden de Groot, Queen’s University; Stephan Schott, Carleton University.

“Arctic cod from multi-mesh gill nets” (top right) photo credit: Peter Van Coeverden de Groot