Arctic Salmon

Salmon are being harvested in the Canadian Arctic

The number of salmon being caught is increasing;

The salmon are being caught in more places;

Different kinds of salmon are showing up.

Charlie Erigaktoak and Danny Gordon Jr. of Aklavik, NWT, with a salmon they harvested in 2016 at Shingle Point, Yukon. (Credit: Michelle Gruben)

Charlie Erigaktoak and Danny Gordon Jr. of Aklavik, NWT, with a salmon they harvested in 2016 at Shingle Point, Yukon. (Credit: Michelle Gruben)

We work with harvesters and communities across the Canadian Arctic

to monitor these changes

and address community-driven questions through research.

Indigenous Knowledge is critical to assessing and understanding change.

What is being harvested?

All types of unusual fish, including salmon. Fish are moving in response to changing environments. This is called range shifts. Many kinds are being caught in places where they haven't been before.

Descriptions of Pacific salmon that may be harvested in the Arctic.

All species of salmon from North America have been harvested in the Canadian Arctic.

Arctic fishes are also moving to new places in the Arctic, where they have not been seen before.

Caught a salmon?

Caught an unusual fish?

Let us know!

Where are the salmon being harvested?

Salmon are occasionally harvested by people who are fishing for other fish.

  • Atlantic salmon (red dots) have been harvested in Nunavut. This is not new. We are assessing changes.

  • Chum salmon (black dots) have a historic presence in the Mackenzie River. Harvests are increasing and are spreading eastward.

  • Pink salmon (yellow dots) first appeared in 2004 in the western Canadian Arctic. They have spread.

  • Sockeye salmon (purple dots) have shown up in higher numbers in the last 5 years in NWT, and especially in the communities in the high Arctic. This is a change.

  • Chinook and coho salmon are extremely rare.

A representation of salmon harvests across the Canadian Arctic. Each dot may represent more than one salmon, most were reported as part of the Arctic Salmon program.

When have salmon been harvested?

The number of each species of Pacific salmon provided to the Arctic salmon community-based monitoring program from harvesters in the NWT from 2000-2020. Modified from Dunmall et al. 2018.

  • Indigenous Knowledge from the Inuvialuit Settlement Region provides invaluable historic and current information about salmon harvests, documented by Z. Chila. Video: Inuvialuit Knowledge of salmon

  • Chum salmon are harvested in the western Canadian Arctic every year. Some years have exceptionally high numbers of Chum salmon. These “exceptional years” are becoming more frequent.

  • Pink salmon are still rare, but are becoming more commonly harvested in the Beaufort Sea and Mackenzie River Delta communities in even-numbered years.

  • More Sockeye salmon in recent years have been observed and harvested as far east as Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.

Why are salmon appearing in the Canadian Arctic?

Salmon are telling us the oceans and rivers are changing.

They are indicators of ecosystem change.


Fresh water

Salmon are being harvested in places where they have never appeared before, like in the Anguniaqvia niqiqyuam Marine Protected Area near Paulatuk, NWT, pictured in summer (above) and in winter (below).

Salmon Colonization

is a two-step process:

Step 1: Find a new place

Step 2: Spawn, eggs survive

Just because salmon are showing up does not mean they are spawning successfully in new places.

Salmon need to find places that do not freeze during the cold Arctic winters in order to colonize new rivers. We monitor water temperatures during winter to figure out if there are places in Canadian Arctic rivers that are suitable for salmon, places where their eggs can survive and develop.

Installing devices to monitor water temperature in the Hornaday River near Paulatuk, NWT

A temperature logger installed in the river records data year-round, providing essential information to assess if salmon could colonize the area.

What does increasing salmon mean for The North?

This is where we focus most of our research, relying on both Science and Indigenous knowledge to address community-driven questions.