The TAEMP (Tłı̨chǫ Aquatic Ecosystem Monitoring Program) was back in Gamètì this fall to sample fish, water, and lake sediments to see if there have been any changes in fish or fish habitat in the area since they first sampled there in 2013.
The results from that initial sampling gave the TAEMP team “baseline” information on environmental conditions that existed at the time of sampling. By returning to the same lake and repeating sampling, the TAEMP can compare new data with the baseline data and see if there are any significant differences in the results. That comparison will help answer questions such as whether metals and other contaminants are increasing over time and having an impact on fish, or detect any other changes that may have occurred in the aquatic ecosystem. This year’s fish camp will give the first set of comparative results for Gamètì for water, sediment and fish tissues in Rae Lakes.
Baseline sampling near all four Tłı̨chǫ communities has been completed and the TAEMP is now in its second phase--comparative sampling. So far, TAEMP has repeated sampling in Russell and Slemon Lakes near Behchokǫ̀, and Snare Lake near Wekweètì. Next year, the fish camp returns to Whatì, completing this first round of comparative sampling.
Planning for this year’s fish camp happened this summer, on August 9 and September 6, 2017 in Gamètì. Boyan Tracz, WRRB’s Wildlife Management Biologist, met with community members to plan activities and put the final touches on the logistics for the fish camp’s location and timing. Community members decided to set up camp at the site they used four years ago at a traditional fishery site near Gamètì, from September 25-29, 2017. Fish tissue sampling focused on Lake Whitefish and Lake Trout for comparison with the 2013 test results. Water and sediment samples were collected again and will be analyzed for physical and chemical properties, as well as for trace metals.
While the focus of the fish camp is on collecting samples that can be analyzed later in a lab, the on-the-land setting is ideal for bringing together elders, youth and biologists and exchanging skills and knowledge. The elders can share Tłı̨chǫ ways of understanding the aquatic ecosystem and assessing its health, as well as teach traditional ways of catching, preparing and preserving fish, for example. The biologists and scientists can demonstrate standard scientific methods for collecting samples, data collection and “fish processing” –extracting fish tissue samples from the fish for testing later in a lab.
A few more people were added to this year’s fish camp, including bear monitors and a new foreman’s assistant –Hunter Mantla, one of the youth at the first fish camp in 2013! Look for our story on this year’s fish camp in our Fall issue!