Chinook run shaping up to be a disaster

The Alaskan governor has urged the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to declare a fishery disaster on the Yukon River. Sean Parnell pressed the office to make the declaration for both 2011 and 2012.

The Alaskan governor has urged the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to declare a fishery disaster on the Yukon River.

Sean Parnell pressed the office to make the declaration for both 2011 and 2012.

Last year, the commercial fishery of chinook salmon on the Yukon River was completely shut down and subsistence harvest was greatly restricted. This year is looking even worse.

The Secretary of Commerce has already declared the 2009 season a disaster for the fishery.

While the final counts for this season are not in yet, almost all of the chinook that will enter the Yukon River this year have done so, and the numbers are the worst on record.

As of July 16, 104,000 fish had been counted at the Pilot Station sonar counter near the mouth of the river. That’s down from an average count of 146,000 at this time, and an average count of 135,300 in years when the run is late, as it was this year.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has restricted the times where subsistence fishing is allowed in order to protect the run and help meet their border obligations and escapement goals.

Every Tuesday through the summer, representatives from communities along the Yukon River and fishery officials on both sides of the border join a teleconference to hear about how the fish run is doing from the people on the ground.

This week, many Alaska communities reported that they could not fish even when allowed to do so because of high water levels and floating debris.

Some said that they have harvested less than half of the chinook required to meet their community’s subsistence need, but that they have stopped fishing for chinook and will wait until the fall chum run, which is expected to be strong.

Meanwhile in Canada, First Nation communities along the Yukon River are still waiting to see how many fish will reach them this year.

“Until we see the numbers coming across the border, we’re not sure what impact those management measures (by the Alaskan government) will have had on the run,” said Mary Ellen Jarvis with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Cutting fishing times by half will not necessarily result in a 50 per cent reduction in harvest, because communities could fish harder during the available openings, Jarvis said.

The first chinook reached the Eagle sonar counter, just below the Canadian border, on July 2. As of July 16, 600 fish had been counted.

In previous years an average of 7,500 fish had reached the counter by that date.

While things are not looking good, no radical management decisions will be taken until we have a better idea of how many fish will make it across the border, Jarvis said.

“We certainly have put First Nations on alert that we are trying to take a very conservative approach until we have that information.”

That means that First Nation fisheries are being asked to hold off the early fish if possible and wait to see how the run is doing.

Here in the Yukon, First Nations have the authority to manage their own fishing activity. They do so in co-operation with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans under “voluntary community-based management,” Jarvis said.

In past years, First Nations have introduced various measures to restrict their harvest, including reducing fishing times, reducing the harvest, or authorizing elders-only fish camps.

These management techniques have been successful in the past, Jarvis said.

However, if the run starts to look any worse than it does right now, officials could consider shutting down the fishery entirely.

“Ultimately DFO does have the authority to manage the fishery for Canada,” Jarvis said.

Through an amendment to community licences, the department could outlaw fishing altogether, and that decision would be enforceable.

This extreme measure has never been taken in the past, and is “not somewhere we want to go,” Jarvis said.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

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