10/18/2014 10:12 EDT | Updated 12/18/2014 05:59 EST

Halifax scientist hopes 1.2-m trout bodes well for Arctic conservation

A Halifax scientist is back from the Arctic with groundbreaking research — giant trout with giant implications for conservation in the north.

Steve Campana and his team from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography spent part of the summer in Victoria Island mapping northern lakes and trying to figure out what is in them.

Along the way they found trout fishermen can only dream of.

“The biggest lake trout we caught was 1.2 metres and weighed about 35 pounds [16 kilograms],” said Campana. “It was a nice trout.”

The scientific team was only able to sample a small number of the 500,000 lakes in the region.

“The vast majority are totally pristine. The majority of them have never been visited by human beings ever before, which is so cool,” said Campana.

“Basically all the lake trout were there in this big shallow lake and as the water rebounded they just stayed where they were.”

The project was funded by the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board.

“The main reason for funding something like this is to help find a baseline information on trout so we can manage the species for the future of the population and the people that use the resource,” said board chair Ben Kovac.

The tourism potential in the Arctic is growing, but scientists and the territorial government want to make sure resources like the enormous trout last.

Campana said the area has a rare opportunity to be proactive, instead of reactive, when it comes to conservation.

“What we are trying to do in this project is to essentially put something in place so that all of these hundreds of thousands of lakes that are unfished right now, once the fishing starts up, they don't get over fished. We want to actually have the conservation plan in place before the damage is done unlike what is done with the vast majority of fisheries around the world,” he said.

Campana used Google Earth to map the lakes. He’s added information including the lakes' names, their depth and how many trout might be in them.

Campana said the science that has allowed them to map the vast region and accurately predict what is in the lakes will have implications around the globe.

“I think it is going to revolutionize not just the way they do things in the Arctic but I think it has implications all over the world.”