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Cisco, Whitefish & Inconnu

Various Classifications (See Below)


Arctic cisco (Coregonus autumnalis) - Qaluhaq

Least cisco (Coregonus sardinella)

Humpback whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) - Pikuktuq

Broad whitefish (Coregonus nasus) - Anaakliq

Round whitefish (Prosopium cylindraceum)

Inconnu (Stenodus leucichthys) - Higaq

Population Status


The whitefish species noted above are distributed throughout the Yukon North Slope rivers and lakes, including the Mackenzie Delta, and often have migratory patterns that take them into the brackish waters that exist along the coast during the open-water season. This is particularly true of arctic cisco, which have migratory habits at different stages of their life history that take them along the entire North Slope coast between Alaska and the Mackenzie Delta.

Least cisco, probably the most abundant of the whitefish species along the coast, tend to decline in numbers as one heads west of the Mackenzie Delta.

Lake whitefish, broad whitefish, round whitefish, and inconnu are present in relatively small numbers on the North Slope, often associated with the mouths of rivers, their estuaries, and the lagoons in the narrow strip of brackish water along the coast.

In all cases non-migratory populations may exist together with migratory ones and in the case of least cisco there are even dwarf populations present in some locations.

Population Size:


Population Trend:

Unknown, but thought to be stable at this time.

Unique or special characteristics:

  • Arctic cisco have a fairly complicated life history involving both Alaskan and Canadian waters. Spawning is thought to take place in the Mackenzie River system (such as the Peel and Arctic Red rivers) in the fall, after which the spent fish migrate to the Delta area. After hatching in the spring, the young-of-the-year migrate along the coast of the North Slope to Alaskan waters such as the Colville River, where it is believed they spend their juvenile years. Once mature, they return to the Mackenzie to spawn and spend their remaining mature years in the Canadian waters, migrating back and forth between their spawning grounds and the brackish coastal waters of the North Slope.
  • The majority of the anadromous least cisco seem to originate from the Mackenzie River area, migrating in a westerly direction in the spring and summer, returning to the Delta in the fall. Smaller local populations of least cisco also exist in some of the rivers and lakes of the North Slope, with some entering brackish waters. At least one dwarf non-migratory population is known to inhabit Trout Lake.

Habitat Features

The habitat preferences are similar for all the whitefish species and are not well known in this region. In the spring and summer, the anadromous populations move into the nearshore warmer, less saline, brackish waters to feed since they are less tolerant of the marine environment. As their environment changes during the fall they move back to freshwater for the winter, the mature ones proceeding to their spawning grounds before going on to the overwintering areas in the lower Mackenzie or to lakes in the North Slope area where the rivers are too shallow to support them for the whole winter. The non-anadromous populations often have migratory patterns between different freshwater habitats, used for feeding, spawning, or overwintering, which are associated with the different stages of their life history.



There is a subsistence harvest for Arctic cisco in the Mackenzie River systems, on the North Slope during the summer in areas such as Shingle Point where there are summer camps, and in the rivers in Alaska such as the Colville and the Sagavanirktok. Least cisco are also taken along the coast in smaller numbers and, like Arctic cisco, are often dried for later consumption. Other whitefish species are caught incidentally and in small numbers.

From 1988 to 1999 Inuvialuit harvest data was collected through the Inuvialuit Harvest Study. In the period from 1988 to 1997, the average annual harvest reported by Aklavik residents was about 1400 inconnu and about 5800 broad whitefish. Catches of other whitefish species were also recorded. Funding and support for the collection of harvest data is supplied through the IFA and other agencies.

Harvesting Rights To Cisco, Whitefish & Inconnu
Harvest TypeInuvialuitOthers
Sport Preferential Sport fishing with licence from GNWT or YTG
Commercial DFO commercial fishing license DFO commercial fishing license


There is no tourism potential for any whitefish species at this time except possibly for inconnu, which, being predatory and rather large, are sought by anglers in some areas.


It has been shown that solid-fill gravel causeways can seriously change local temperature-salinity regimes along the coast, which may in turn seriously affect the migratory patterns of whitefish since they are not as tolerant of marine conditions as true marine fish. Oil or chemical spills from shipping accidents might also create barriers that they are not able to cross or circumvent, again preventing their natural migration.

Species at Risk Status


Research and Monitoring

Population Monitoring:

None in Yukon North Slope waters other than harvest studies.


In the past some research has been conducted on the effect of causeways on the migratory patterns of cisco and coastal marine fish in Alaska, and on the movement of fish along the North Slope of Yukon. In 1996, a radio tagging program of inconnu was initiated and continued into 1997.


The life history details of the anadromous whitefish that travel along the North Slope are not well known. Although some information on relative abundance, distribution, and movement is available, there is still more needed, as well as a need for data relating to their length, weight, sex, maturity, food habits, and population or stock structure.


Management Jurisdictions
Ivvavik National Park IFA Parks Canada none
Hershel Island Territorial Park Fisheries Act, Fisheries General Regulations YTG
East of the Babbage River NWT Fisheries Regulations and Yukon Fisheries Regulations YTG
Adjoining NWT NWT Wildlife Act National Parks Act and Regulations

The Fisheries Joint Management Committee makes recommendations to the Minister of Fisheries for all fisheries matters in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. The FJMC provides the means to jointly set Inuvialuit subsistence quota and allocate such quota among the communities.

Community-based Information

Community-based information on this species may be found in the reports of the annual community-based monitoring program conducted in Aklavik and neighbouring communities by the Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Co-op.

In 2004, the Inuvialuit Cultural Resources Centre prepared a report titled “Tariurmiutuakun qanuq atuutiviksaitlu ilitchuriyaqput ingilraan Inuvialuit qulianginnin = Learning about marine resources and their use through Inuvialuit oral history”. Transcripts from two Inuvialuit oral history collections were reviewed to see what could be learned about marine resources and their use within the southeastern Beaufort Sea. The study area included the coast from the Yukon/United States border in the west to the Franklin Bay area in the east. Information was compiled on beluga and bowhead whales, some coastal birds, fish, polar bears and seals, in an effort to provide a foundation for developing future projects on Inuvialuit knowledge of marine resources.

Related Literature and Information Sources

Bond, W. and R. Erickson. 1989. Summer studies of the nearshore fish community at Phillips Bay, Beaufort Sea coast, Yukon. Can. Tech. Rept. Fish. Aquat. Sci.

Joint Secretariat, 2003. Inuvialuit Harvest Study, Data and Methods Report 1988 - 1997. Inuvik, NT.

Stephenson, S., J. Burrows and J. Babaluk. 2005. Long-distance migrations by inconnu (Stenodus leucichthys) in the Mackenzie River system. Arctic. 58 (1): 21-25.