Chinook numbers shrink

Only First Nations subsistence fishers will be allowed to catch chinook in the Yukon River this year. Commercial, domestic and sport fishers will be out of luck, if the latest counts of the much-prized fish prove correct.

Only First Nations subsistence fishers will be allowed to catch chinook in the Yukon River this year.

Commercial, domestic and sport fishers will be out of luck, if the latest counts of the much-prized fish prove correct.

Scaled-back estimates also suggest that the United States won’t meet its treaty obligations to allow at least 42,500 chinook across the border to Canada. Just two weeks ago, US biologists expected at least that many fish would enter Canada, plus an additional 8,000 chinook for our First Nations fisheries.

Not any more. After US biologists tweaked their computer models to account for glitches caused by late ice and high water, they realized their fish forecast was overly optimistic. New estimates put the number of chinook to reach Canada at between 30,000 and 35,000.

“They took more fish than they should have,” said Frank Quinn, Yukon’s regional director for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Still, Quinn doesn’t expect that Yukon First Nations will face restrictions on their chinook catch, unless the run “just totally dies on us.”

Blame, in part, Alaska’s computer gremlins. Had the state’s data been corrected two weeks earlier, its fisheries managers could have reacted by rolling out fishing restrictions, said Quinn.

Whether the state would have had the stomach to impose restrictions on its subsistence fishers is an open question.

Last year, Alaska placed tough restrictions on its native fisheries catching chinook. In doing so it provoked much public anger, with some native fishers openly defying the fishing ban.

As Quinn says, “when you close a fishery, you’re taking food off someone’s table when you’re dealing with subsistence users.”

Outrage only grew when it became apparent that they had let far more chinook through to Canada than required.

Last year, Alaska’s subsistence fishers only took about 33,000 chinook. This season they are expected to catch close to the historic average of 50,000 chinook.

Alaska’s managers have asked subsistence fishers to voluntarily curb their chinook catches this season.

Blame also Alaska’s decision to open fishing on the big summer chum run, which resulted in the incidental catch of 9,500 chinook, 2,500 of which were destined for Canada. At the time that fishery opened, US managers believed they would face a surplus of chinook.

And blame the massive pollock fishery that operates in the Bering Sea, which is believed to accidently scoop up, on average, 80,000 chinook annually.

Alaska failed to meet its treaty obligations for the three years previous to 2009.

So far, the big, glittering fish have reached Old Crow and Dawson City.

Estimating the size of a salmon run isn’t easy, Quinn acknowledged. And it’s easier to crunch data from Canada because, by the time a salmon run reaches the border, we’re able to look at numbers collected from Alaska.

Yukon’s DFO office is in daily contact with their US counterparts, said Quinn. Fisheries managers have been more successful in hitting their targets on the Alsek River, where it appears as if adequate numbers of chinook and sockeye will reach Canadian waters.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read