Project Delivery:
Olokhaktomiut (Ulukhaktok) Hunters and Trappers Committee
Paulatuk Hunters and Trappers Committee
Tuktoyaktuk Hunters and Trappers Committee
EMC Eco Marine Corporation
Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans
University of Alaska
 
Sponsors:
Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans (Oceans Division, Science Division)
Fisheries Joint Management Committee (FJMC)
Devon Canada
World Wildlife Fund of Canada
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Canada (AANDC)
Environmental Studies Research Funds (ESRF)
Polar Continental Shelf Project (PCSP)
US Minerals Management Services
Panel Energy Research & Development (PERD)

Overview

Research and Monitoring of the
Ringed Seal in Canada's Western Arctic

Ringed Seal

The ringed seal (Phoca hispida) is an important species in the Arctic marine ecosystem, being the main prey of the polar bear, and a major consumer of marine fish and invertebrates. It is important to the subsistence economies of coastal Inuvialuit communities of Ulukhaktok, Sachs Harbour, Tuktoyaktuk and Paulatuk. Ringed seals are harvested for food, dog food and for pelts for handicrafts and clothing.

We do not know the exact size of the ringed seal population in the southeastern Beaufort Sea but it may be more than half a million. We believe the seal population is stable, and the species is currently classified as 'not at risk' in Canada. However, the seals are tied very closely to the state of the ecosystem and are dependent on the sea ice for reproduction. They are proving to be a good indicator of environmental productivity and change in the Arctic. Climate change coupled with a renewed interest by the oil and gas industry in exploration in the north, could cause or contribute to effects on the seal populations.

There are gaps in our knowledge about the distribution, movements and stock structure of ringed seals in this area. This site provides information and results about three community-based studies on the ringed seal in Canada's Western Arctic. The first study, Seal Monitoring, involves the Ulukhaktok HTC and Sachs Harbour HTC working with DFO scientists to monitor, growth and reproduction of ringed seals in the Beaufort Sea and Amundsen Gulf areas (1992 to present). Seals taken in the regular harvest are sampled and measured to monitor changes in condition and reproduction as indicators of environmental productivity. The project is essentially a continuation of work started more than 40 years ago (1971-1981) in this same area, and collectively the data sets provide an extensive, long-term database which is expanding with each passing year.

Our second project, Seal Telemetry, involves seal hunters from Ulukhaktok and Paulatuk, Northwest Territories, working with DFO and EMC scientists for five seasons in the tagging and tracking of the ringed seal. The preliminary findings have yielded some exciting and unexpected results. The site provides pictures of the process to capture and tag the seals, maps showing their movements, and links to publications of results .

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Finally, our third project, Potential Effects of Industry Activity, started in 2003 and concluded in 2006. Using trained Labrador retrievers, this study involves work amongst breeding seals in an area offshore of the Mackenzie Delta where the oil and gas industry conducted exploratory drilling in 2006. It includes both "before" and "after" assessment of effects of activity on seal behaviour, movements and density. The Tuktoyaktuk HTC worked closely with DFO and EMC on this project.


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Hunters and Trappers Committees

Overview | 1. Seal Monitoring | 2. Seal Telemetry | 3. Potential Effects of Industry Activity | Photo Gallery
Project Delivery | Sponsors