Imaryuk (Husky Lakes) is located in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) of the western Arctic. The interconnected saltwater basins of Imaryuk are home to vast populations of marine and terrestrial wildlife. Inuvialuit have been stewards of this culturally important area for centuries.

A Unique Ecosystem

Imaryuk means “big water” in the local language—it covers nearly 2000 square kilometres from the east channel of the Mackenzie River to Liverpool Bay. The five basins, connected by finger-like channels, have varied salinity conditions due to a mix of freshwater runoff and saltwater intrusions from the Beaufort Sea.

The lakes are home to a variety of fish species, including lake whitefish, Arctic grayling, inconnu, and a unique population of lake trout that has adapted to life in the brackish water. Marine mammals such as belugas and seals sometimes make their way into the lakes from the Beaufort Sea; belugas have been known to get stranded when the lakes freeze in the fall. Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, wolverines, ducks and geese also roam the region.

The area is of exceptional cultural and spiritual importance to local people and is used extensively for hunting, fishing, trapping and travel. Given its value, it enjoys higher levels of protection under the terms of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA), the land claim agreement between Inuvialuit and the federal government that created the ISR. Inuvialuit own large tracts of Imaryuk outright.

New Road, New Challenges

Imaryuk was very remote for many years, accessible only by dog team, snowmobile, float plane or four-wheeler. In 2017, however, an all-season highway between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk was completed, extending the Dempster Highway all the way to the Arctic Ocean. While the road was in many ways a positive development for the region, it also brought new conservation challenges.

Inuvialuit anticipated that increased accessibility to the lakes might negatively impact fish stocks, habitat and the cultural activities that depend on them. Working with the Fisheries Joint Management Committee (FJMC), a co-management body established under their land-claim treaty, adjacent communities developed a community fishing plan that set voluntary limits and restrictions on fishing activity. They also called for the creation of a guardian program to promote the plan and monitor compliance.

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To ensure the sustainable harvest of lake trout and other species, the community fishing plan sets voluntary restrictions on fishing activity.

 

A Community-Based Approach to Conservation

The FJMC partnered with local Hunters and Trappers Committees and Oceans North to create the Imaryuk Monitoring Program. The goal of the program is to protect and conserve local fisheries, related community uses, and cultural activities near the new highway and in the adjacent wilderness area.

The Imaryuk Monitoring Program employed six monitors in its pilot year: all of them are Inuvialuit residents from Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik. They work full time, engaging in public education, monitoring fishing and impacts to fish habitat, and collecting traditional and scientific data in both the areas adjacent to the highway and the Husky Lakes.

Strong support exists among the Inuvialuit communities to continue and strengthen the program in the coming years. Oceans North is committed to helping its partners achieve their goals of conservation, employment and sustainable harvesting for present and future generations.

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Imaryuk monitors gather data and promote compliance with the community fishing plan.

My father would take me out, we’d go around the lake and travel all day to the different fishing spots that his father had shown him, probably about 70 years before my time. That’s what I’d like to do with my kids, even my grandchildren.

Sammy Lennie Senior Monitor