This year’s Yukon River chinook salmon escapement goal has been met.
As of last week, the number of salmon counted by sonar near the border village of Eagle stood at roughly 49,000, which surpasses the minimum goal of 42,500 called for in the Pacific Salmon Treaty between Canada and the United States.
Under the treaty, Americans have to allow that number of chinook salmon to pass into Canadian waters.
However, the goal had not been reached in five of the past seven years.
This year, for the first time, Alaska introduced a ban on targeted fishing of chinook salmon.
Eric Newland, Yukon area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said he believed the number of fish would likely surpass the upper-end goal of 55,000 by today or tomorrow.
“This is something the state of Alaska has worked hard to achieve,” he said.
“It means people on the river are choosing not to fish. These king salmon are allowed to pass up river and make it into Canada for escapement.”
The salmon enter from the Bering Sea into Alaska waterways and travel as far as 3,000 kilometres to spawning grounds on the border of B.C. and Yukon.
Communities along the river rely on the fish for subsistence.
Alaskan communities along the Yukon river have returned to regular fishing rules as the chinook run has passed, said Newland. That fishing would target mostly the summer chum salmon run.
When 95 per cent of the chinook salmon run has passed through a specific management area, that’s when people are put back on scheduled fishing, he said.
More than 137,000 chinook salmon have already been counted at the Pilot Station sonar, which is located almost 200 kilometres from the mouth of the Yukon River.
The preseason estimates suggested that the total run size would be between 60,000 and 120,000 fish.
In 1982, the salmon run peaked at around 300,000 fish.
As the fish move up river, they start peeling off into various tributaries, said Newland.
“It’s another year of very conservative management, even more so than last year.”
Last year, despite strict fishing regulations, only 30,000 chinook salmon managed to pass the Eagle sonar.
“The harvest this year should remain very low. I think we’re thankful that this year’s run size looks like it’ll be large enough to make some goals.”
Dennis Zimmerman of the Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee said the organization is holding a meeting today to discuss the findings and will have more information to share tomorrow.
Currently all chinook fishing is banned in Canadian sections of the watershed. It is the first time ever that the First Nations fishery has been shut down completely.
Contact Myles Dolphin at firstname.lastname@example.org