Beaufort Regional Environmental Assessment (BREA) Marine Fishes Project - Fishes, Habitats, and Ecosystem Linkages to Oil and Gas Development in the Beaufort Sea
Ship: CCGS Amundsen CA
Principal Investigator: Reist, Jim
Start Date: 06-08-2012
End Date: 12-09-2013
Citation: Unpublished data
Abstract: During August and early September, 2012 and 2013, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Arctic Aquatic Research Division, led the first assessment of offshore marine fishes and habitats in the Canadian Beaufort Sea. The primary objectives of the field campaign were to collect baseline data on the diversity, distributions, and relative abundances of offshore marine fishes, their prey, and associated habitat parameters (e.g., water-mass structure, sediment parameters). In 2012, sampling was focused on the Canadian Beaufort Shelf and continental slope at predetermined depth stations (20-40, 75, 200, 350, 500, 750 and 1000m) along four primary transects. Station sampling typically included 7 primary components: oceanography, primary productivity, zooplankton, sediment, infauna, epifauna, and benthic fishing. Separate from station sampling, all transects were run for hydroacoustic sampling to detect aggregations of marine fishes and other biota in the water column. Acoustic targets were echo-validated using fishing equipment and plankton nets, with concurrent collection of oceanographic data. In 2013, the same sampling approach was applied in Amundsen Gulf (five transects, 20-500m depth), along the 20m isobaths nearshore from Cape Bathurst to Tuktoyaktuk (5 stations), and in the transboundary area straddling the Yukon-Alaska border (three transects, 20-1000m depth). Supplementary station sampling was conducted to enhance the regional study design (e.g., deep sampling to 1500m) and/or when logistics dictated a departure from planned activities. A sub-set of stations from the 2012 season were re-sampled in 2013 to assess interannual variability of biotic communities and habitats. Data will be used to gain insight into the linkages and couplings (e.g., trophic patterns) within and among offshore habitats as well as to establish the functional relationships within and among deepwater slope, shelf and coastal benthic and pelagic sub-ecosystems in the Beaufort Sea. The Beaufort Regional Environmental Assessment (BREA) was a multi-stakeholder initiative, administered by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, which sponsored regional environmental and socio-economic research vital to the future management of oil and gas in the Beaufort Sea (http://www.beaufortrea.ca/). The BREA identified major knowledge gaps relevant to regulatory review processes including a lack of baseline information of offshore marine fishes and habitats. This information is necessary to support project planning, monitoring and regulatory activities and is required to assess the cumulative impacts and broader ecosystem ramifications of multiple stressors including oil and gas development and climate change. In 2012 and 2013, the Arctic Aquatic Research Division of Fisheries and Oceans Canada lead the BREA Marine Fishes Project (BREA-MFP), the first assessment of offshore marine fishes in the Canadian Beaufort Sea. The overarching program objectives of the BREA-MFP were to 1) establish regional baselines for diversity, relative abundances and distributions of offshore marine fishes, 2) determine the community structure and habitat associations of marine fishes and 3) understand ecosystem linkages and energy pathways within and amongst offshore and coastal marine habitats. This baseline dataset will support governments, co-management bodies and industry with decision making processes related to project planning and regulatory review. It provides baseline information to support future conservation and monitoring initiatives and is intended to be used as a platform from which to evaluate the impacts of natural and anthropogenic stressors.