The Arctic Fishery Alliance's attempt to establish a turbot fishery in Qikiqtarjuaq is showing signs of promise.

The group, made up of the hunters and trappers organizations of Qikiqtarjuaq, Grise Fiord, Arctic Bay and Resolute, has sent up a ship, the Atlantic Prospect, on a mission to test out the viability of any such fishery there.

On a calm morning recently, the ship travelled past Qikiqtarjuaq, a community of about 500 people on Eastern Baffin Island. 

The mission? "What we're going to do is find the fish," the Atlantic's captain Bob Bennett said. "We're gonna work into Broughton Island and see how close we can get and still find fish."

The voyage is a test to see if long line exploratory fishing will work in the winter. 

Qikiqtarjuaq turbot fishery

Deck hands process some fish caught on the Atlantic Prospect. (Vincent Desrosiers)

Long lines baited with squid are lowered into the water at different depths and locations. The lines were placed about 40 to 50 kilometres away from the community. When the time is right, the lines are pulled up to inspect what — if anything — has been caught.

The work isn't limited to the surface. Below deck, four levels down in the engine room, engineers check to make sure instruments like engines and oil tanks are working properly.

"There are more people going into training for this, which is good, not only for Qikiqtarjuaq," says Patrick Kuniliusee, who's working on getting his fourth class engineering ticket. "People in other communities are taking the courses not just for the community's benefit but the whole territory."

After about eight hours of back breaking labour, pulling up cords of rope, cutting, measuring and gutting the crew inspected their results — just over a metric tonne of turbot, ready for market. 

This exploratory fishery will give people a better idea of what's under the sea and the economic potential, such as creating jobs and revenue which will stay here in the community.