Atqasuk,Alaska-Meade River Fish Mortality Event

Our department received phone calls and emails from village members of Atqasuk on Friday-hundreds of dead fish were found in and around the Meade River.  There was debate about sending me out to the village to investigate, but we decided first we should have some fish flown to the lab for me to look at.  The pictures show multiple species involvement and fish that appear in good body condition-these findings suggest low dissolved oxygen, in which case I will not see much in the way of gross lesions….

I found these fish to be in excellent body condition!  As predicted, I did not see any remarkable gross lesions that would explain this mortality event.  In the last photo, I did note the presence of a fish parasite on the visceral surface of the stomach and the proximal intestine.  I have forwarded these photos on to a fish pathologist, Dr. Ted Meyers with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for his interpretation.  I really appreciate the opportunity to examine these fish!  At the same time, I am extremely humbled by the concern that people of the North Slope express for the health and well-being of the subsistence resources that feed and clothe their families.  I also realize that I cannot possibly learn everything I will need to know in veterinary school-I have been given the tools, but I must learn to take what knowledge I do have and apply it other species that are not commonly seen as a veterinary student.  In other words, I must learn to think for myself!  Even more important, is the concept of humility-many villagers express frustration that scientists from the outside do not listen to the wealth of knowledge possessed by the elders.  There is most certainly a place for traditional knowledge in my research!  I cannot possibly know the foraging, feeding, mating and migratory practices of their subsistence resources  because I have not lived on the North Slope.  I welcome the input of the subsistence hunters-their information will help me better understand my findings!

    • meg
    • June 8th, 2010

    What an extraordinary journey, both scientifically and culturally! Thank you for sharing it with us.

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