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Presentation TitleFish Distribution, Movement, and Production in Coastal Arctic Drainages
Presenting Author NameJason McFarland
Presenting Author AffiliationOwl Ridge Natural Resource Consultants
Presenting Author EmailEmail hidden; Javascript is required.
Presentation Number5
Unit MeetingAlaska Chapter
General TopicFreshwater
Type of PresentationOral

Arctic fish populations have evolved migratory life history strategies to survive a variable, and sometimes unpredictable, extreme environment. Growing seasons are limited to a few months and overwintering periods can last up to eight months. Wintering habitat is often limited, as ice thickness exceeds water depth in the vast majority of Arctic streams and aquatic habitats. To maximize feeding, growth, and spawning opportunities during the brief open water period, fish must seasonally migrate between different habitat types. Collaborative studies sponsored by the private sector and agencies over the past eighteen years describe seasonal fish distribution, habitat use, and movement patterns among coastal drainages in the northeastern portion of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). Findings from these studies indicate that peak migrations coincide with the two major hydrologic periods in the Arctic, which occur during the shoulder seasons in spring immediately after snow-melt and in fall as freeze-up initiates. Fish use different habitat types, based on season, species, and size class. Tagging and recapture events suggest species move readily within and between stream systems. Annual production and growth fluctuates between years due to variable environmental conditions. These data are important to detect and monitor change as the Arctic faces uncertainty due to continued change.