(Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

Champagne and Aishihik First Nations government closes salmon fishery

Champagne and Aishihik First Nations (CAFN) have issued an emergency closure on fishing for sockeye and chinook salmon in the Tatshenshini River and its tributaries this season due to the “very low” numbers of the fish returning to spawn.

CAFN announced the closure, which will remain in effect for the rest of the 2018 season and covers the Tatshenshini, Klukshu, Blanchard and Takhanne rivers and Village Creek, in a press release July 31. The First Nations’ Elders Senate brought forward a resolution for the emergency closure at the CAFN general assembly on July 22.

“Champagne and Aishihik Citizens are concerned about the very low numbers of returning salmon to Klukshu. We are voluntarily giving up our right to harvest in order to allow the few returning fish to spawn,” CAFN Chief Steve Smith said in the release. “Our dän (people) recognize that our salmon are at risk of disappearing completely. As the stewards of our land and waters, we must look after the fish and protect our traditional way of life for generations to come.”

CAFN is also closing its fishery to visitors and will not be issuing any visitors’ licences.

According to the press release, the number of salmon returning to Klukshu and the Tatshenshini River system has been “critically low” for years now, and that this season, “the number of salmon returning so far is much worse than predicted.”

A Fisheries and Oceans Canada report from July 25 states that as of July 24, 299 chinook were counted on the Klukshu River, and as of July 25, 15 sockeye salmon were counted in the Klukshu River and Village Creek. The federal department forecasted that both salmon species would be having a “below average” run this year.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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