Fisheries & Ecological Services
Alaska Region   


Fairbanks Fish & Wildlife Field Office
Fisheries and Habitat Restoration

Recent Inventory and monitoring projects:

Selawik Sheefish
In the spring of 2004, thawing permafrost caused a large slump in the upper Selawik River within Selawik National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. As this slump continues to grow, the tons of discharged sediment have changed the river water from clear to silty and opaque. This slump is located above important spawning habitat for the sheefish (Stenodus leucicthyes). Sheefish are an important year-round subsistence food for the Inupiat people living Kotzebue, Alaska. Over 25,000 Sheefish are caught annually- primarily by subsistence fishermen. The Sheefish is the largest member of the whitefish subfamily. Like their relative the salmon, they travel to the sea but spawn in fresh water, and they also need clear water and sediment-free gravel for depositing their eggs. Unlike salmon, the sheefish lives up to 40 years and makes the journey between the ocean and sea multiple times throughout their lives. Ray Hander, a Fisheries Biologist from the Fairbanks Field Office hypothesizes that sedimentation to sheefish spawning habitat caused by the permafrost slump may negatively affect their populations. In cooperation with the Native Village of Selawik, they have launched a study to assess the age and abundance of spawning sheefish and to identify patterns of spawning behavior that may be related to this habitat change.

Sheefish catch in sled.  C. Foster slump man holding a large fish

Dolly Varden Char Research on the Hulahula and Canning Rivers
Fishery biologist Randy Brown is studying how Dolly Varden char survive winters in northern Alaska. It appears that a small number of perennial springs are the key. As much as 95% of the freshwater and Arctic Ocean habitat these fish use during the summer is either frozen or too cold for winter survival.

Dolly varden   Post spawning release


National Petroleum Reserve Alaska-Fish Creek Watershed Survey
The Fish Creek Watershed in the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska is a diverse landscape vulnerable to changes in climate, as well as potential land-use impacts from oil and gas development, making it an ideal setting to address long-standing species and habitat questions in Arctic aquatic ecosystems. A multidisciplinary team has been determining fish presence in the lakes of this area. The team used multiple gear types to sample fish including gill nets, fyke nets, minnow traps, beach seines, and hook and line. Their work will provide a template
to assess future land-use and climate change responses in the Arctic Coastal Plain of northern Alaska.

Linda holding a big trout. Lydia in a boat seining


For more information about specific projects, see Past Fisheries Research Projects.

Last updated: January 7, 2014