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Towards a Sustainable Fishery for Nunavummiut

2014 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition – Genomics and Feeding the Future
Fisheries and Aquaculture
Genome Centre(s):
Ontario Genomics
Project Leader(s):
Virginia K. Walker (Queen’s University), Stephen C. Lougheed (Queen’s University), Peter Van Coeverden de Groot (Queen’s University), Stephan Schott (Carleton University)
Fiscal Year Project Launched: 
Project Description: 

Affordable access to safe, nutritious and culturally relevant food is one of the biggest  challenges facing the Nunavummiut, the people of Nunavut. Food costs are 140 per cent higher in Nunavut than in the rest of Canada with eight times more Inuit  households facing moderate to severe food insecurity. This lack of affordable, nutritious  foods is linked to growing health problems, including diabetes and childhood rickets.

Accelerated melting of Arctic sea ice due to climate change is increasing access to  arguably the last remaining under­exploited fishery in the Northern Hemisphere. This  increased accessibility, primarily to Arctic char, but also to Arctic cod and Northern  shrimp, coupled with a developed, sustainable, science­based fishing plan will offer  opportunities for employment and economic benefits for Nunavut communities as well  as greater food security. It is the Nunavummiut that should be the beneficiaries of these  resources, rather than foreign fishing fleets.

Understanding the genetic differences among these fish populations is key to  developing that plan. Dr. Virginia K. Walker of Queen’s University and colleagues  together with the Nunavut communities will integrate traditional and local knowledge  with leading­edge genomic science and bioinformatics to gain an understanding of the  genomes of these fish populations. This will allow monitoring of their migration,  characteristics and adaptation and inform strategies to maintain genetically diverse and  healthy stocks. The project will work toward strengthening Nunavut fisheries, augment  sovereignty claims in the Canadian Arctic, increase employment and economic  development opportunities, ensure access to a healthy food source, and improve food  security for the people of Nunavut.