Coastal Arctic lagoons represent important habitat for a diversity of fish species and sustain a vital subsistence fishery for Alaskan villages. Despite the ecological and cultural importance of coastal lagoons, very little research has been conducted on lagoon fish communities in the western Arctic.
Our research addresses the need for a better understanding of fish ecology in these lagoons, as well as the dearth of scientific information about the fish resources used for subsistence. Without a clear understanding lagoon ecosystem structure and function, it is impossible for managers to detect long-term changes resulting from climate change, to quantify the impacts of development, or to implement appropriate management plans. For example, lagoons provide important habitat for whitefish species – one of the most important subsistence taxa in northwest Alaska. Local fishermen have observed the loss of “countless numbers” of whitefish in some areas of the western Arctic, emphasizing the need to understand, and if necessary, respond to the factors driving perceived declines.