Fish frenzy: Once rare, salmon are now biting in the Beaufort Delta
Salmon were uncommon in region in previous years, but are now showing up in greater numbers
Salmon are biting in the Beaufort Delta region, and residents are talking about it.
"This is the first time I've seen salmon during this time of the year," said Danny Taptuna, from Ulukhaktok, N.W.T.
Community members in Aklavik, Ulukhaktok and Paulatuk, N.W.T., have been going to social media to post their photos of the fish.
Taptuna said that residents in Ulukahktok are just starting to catch salmon. Although he's only caught one so far, he's seen that others have caught more.
Taptuna said he's used to mainly catching whitefish and Arctic char.
"It's different to get salmon from the ocean during this time of the year … It's a big change for our community."
Community members in Aklavik have already caught plenty of salmon this year.
Michelle Gruben, Aklavik Hunters and Trappers Committee resource person, said that Aklavik Inuvialuit members have caught about 200 salmon at this point, and that they have been high-quality fish.
Grocery cards in exchange for salmon
Each community in the Beaufort Delta region will give grocery gift cards for up to 10 whole salmon samples, as well as an unlimited number of fish heads. The samples are submitted to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans for research.
Gruben said they've already reached that 10 sample limit.
The department has been working with communities in the N.W.T. to monitor Arctic salmon since 2000.
"This year, there's lots of salmon showing up in people's nets," said Karen Dunmall, an aquatic biologist with the department.
"They are fishing for other species and they are noticing a large increase in the number of salmon they are catching this year ... especially to last year, and generally in comparison to previous years."
She said communities have always gotten chum salmon, "and the years where there are more and more chum salmon being harvested are becoming more frequent."
Greater variety of salmon
As the years have gone by, the variety of salmon has also increased.
"Starting in 2004, pink salmon started showing up in the even amount of years … more recently in 2016 and '17, sockeye (salmon) appeared," she said.
Dunmall said the region has had reports of several species of salmon this year.
In the 10 years she's worked on the project, Dunmall has seen a change in community members' reception of the salmon.
"I used to get calls of, "where can I trade the salmon?"… Now I get calls of, "I caught a salmon but I ate it. I just want to let you know," laughed Dunmall.
Taptuna, on the other hand, said that he enjoys salmon, but prefers a more familiar fish.
"I was raised on char," he said, "so I prefer to have char."