Observations and first reports of saprolegniosis in Aanaakłiq, broad whitefish (Coregonus nasus), from the Colville River near Nuiqsut, Alaska

Todd L. Sformo, Billy Adams, John C. Seigle, Jayde A. Ferguson, Maureen K. Purcell, Raphaela Stimmelmayr, Joseph H. Welch, Leah M. Ellis, Jason C. Leppi, John C. George. 2017. Observations and first reports of saprolegniosis in Aanaakłiq, broad whitefish (Coregonus nasus), from the Colville River near Nuiqsut, Alaska. Polar Science 14: 78–82 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polar.2017.07.002.

Abstract

We report the first confirmed cases (2013–2016) of saprolegniosis caused by water mold from the genus Saprolegnia in Aanaakłiq, broad whitefish (Coregonus nasus), from the Colville River near Nuiqsut, Alaska. While this mold is known to be worldwide, these instances represent the first cases in Nuiqsut and only the second instance on a single fish on the North Slope, occurring in 1980. We describe the collaborative work on monitoring this emerging disease. Because fish constitute a critical component of the diet in Nuiqsut and fishing is an integral part of Inupiaq nutritional and cultural subsistence activities overall, individual subsistence fishers, local governmental entities, and Alaska Native organizations representing Nuiqsut requested an examination of affected fish and information on possible drivers of this emerging disease. The collaborative work described here ranges from recording fishermen observations, acquiring fish and mold specimens, histopathology, and molecular identification of the mold. This work, not currently grant-funded, begins with Native observation that incorporates western scientific methods and involves local, state, and federal departments as well as for-profit and non-profit organizations. Additionally, we report the more recent (2016) observation of this disease in a second species of whitefish, Pikuktuuq, humpback whitefish (Coregonus pidschain).

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