Fifteen years ago, to enhance biodiversity, we stocked Red Dog’s freshwater reservoir with Arctic grayling, a member of the salmon family. The grayling thrived and eventually overpopulated the reservoir.
We implemented a solution to this in collaboration with the community. In late 2012, we designed and received approval from the mine’s Subsistence Committee — which is made up of Iñupiat hunters and elders from the two closest communities — and from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to launch a program to relocate the Arctic grayling. This program lets employees catch fish from the reservoir and relocate them into Bons Creek (part of the Red Dog Creek watershed) using a fish slide that was designed and built on-site.
In the Iñupiat culture, catching and releasing fish for recreational purposes is not an accepted cultural practice. However, we were able to demonstrate that catching and relocating the grayling would be beneficial to the fish population in the reservoir and in the Red Dog Creek watershed. To ensure responsible management of the program, in 2013, the Recreation Committee created a fishing club. In order to participate in the fishing program, employees must join the club, have a current fishing licence, agree to training and abide by a set of rules, specifically to use barbless hooks and to release the fish in a timely manner into the creek using the constructed slide.
In 2013, approximately 16 employees participated in the fishing club, releasing 144 Arctic grayling into Bons Creek. As Arctic grayling can live upwards of 20 years, this relatively small number of fish will still have a significant impact on the long-term spawning population in Red Dog Creek.