a blow for salmon management


If you’re wondering how low the Yukon’s salmon fishery has fallen, you have only to look at this year’s healthy return.

It exists only because of an Alaskan technical glitch.

Sediment carried into the river by the melting of heavy snows made it particularly cloudy this year, obscuring the salmon as they made their way past a sonar array 197 kilometres from the


This led state officials to believe this year’s salmon run was calamitous, and they slapped unprecedented restrictions on subsistence fishers, a designation that applies to all rural

homesteaders and First Nations who rely on fish to survive.

However, by the time the fish reached a sonar station at Eagle, Alaska, where the water was clearer, suddenly there were salmon. But they were already beyond the reach of most of the

Alaskan subsistence fishers, who usually catch in the neighbourhood of 24,000 chinook.


Of course, the run still wasn’t great. But it was far better than officials believed.

More than 68,000 chinook passed Eagle. That’s about double what passes upstream into Yukon every year.

As a result, the Yukon received an influx of salmon that would normally have been caught by Alaskans.

That’s good news for the territory and for the salmon this year, but it’s not something to cheer.

This year’s sonar malfunction simply shows how fragile the resource is.

And now Alaskans are so angry about the goof they are unlikely to trust or abide by future restrictions on the subsistence fishery.

Good management of the fishery depends on co-operation and trust between nations and the fishers on both sides of the border. This year, that was dealt a blow. That bodes poorly for

returns in future years.

It’s becoming clear the return is no longer large enough to feed the Alaskan subsistence fishery, Yukon fishers and the spawning beds.

Something has to change. The existing fishery is broken.

The Yukon River chinook’s only hope is for both nations and fishers to work together to come up with new ways to share the resource equitably.

If they don’t, there won’t be any left for future generations.

(Richard Mostyn)

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted


Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Hans Gatt wins inaugural 2021 Yukon Journey

The Yukon Journey, a 255-mile race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse, kicked off on Feb. 24

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022