Chinook run surpasses goal

Alaska has met its Yukon River chinook salmon escapement goal for only the third time in the past eight years.

Alaska has met its Yukon River chinook salmon escapement goal for only the third time in the past eight years.

As of Monday, the number of Canadian-origin chinook counted by sonar near the border village of Eagle stood at 56,197, 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.

The upper end of the escapement range is 55,000 fish.

However, the minimum goal had not been reached in five of the past seven years.

Dennis Zimmerman, executive director of the Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee, said Canada is now working towards meeting its spawning escapement requirement, now that Alaska has met theirs.

“Alaska has a responsibility to put at least 42,500 fish across the border and Canada has a responsibility to put a minimum of 42,500 fish on the spawning grounds,” he said.

To date this season there has been no chinook salmon fishing permitted in Canadian portions of the Yukon River watershed.

It is the first time ever that the First Nations fishery has been shut down completely.

The committee does not expect that to change, said Zimmerman.

“Our recommendation (to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans) is to maintain a zero allocation based on conservation concerns. The challenge is that there are significant productivity concerns with these fish.”

The salmon run is composed of primarily five-year-old fish, which lay fewer eggs and have smaller offspring.

Zimmerman said they would much rather see six, seven and eight-year-olds.

“We don’t see the eight-year-olds anymore,” he said, ” and it’s not a good thing that we’re seeing five-year-olds.”

Another concern is the male-to-female ratio, which is abnormal, said Zimmerman.

Seventy per cent of the fish are male, when it’s preferable to have around 60 per cent.

There are also issues with the return-per-spawner, he said.

“It used to be that one chinook would produce four but now we’re hovering at around one-to-one and even below one in some years.”

“It means the fish aren’t as productive and not replenishing themselves at the same degree.”

Zimmerman said one year above escapement doesn’t constitute a rebuilding of this run, which is why the sub-committee is maintaining its zero-allocation recommendation for the time being.

Some First Nations have suggested two cycles – or 14 years – with no fishing to replenish the stock.

More meetings were taking place this week to discuss the issue, Zimmerman said.

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 this a feat Alaska has worked hard to achieve.

“It means people on the river are choosing not to fish,” he said.

“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, Newland said.

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 border.

“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.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley gives a COVID-19 update during a press conference in Whitehorse on May 26. The Yukon government announced two new cases of COVID-19 in the territory with a press release on Oct. 19. (Alistair Maitland Photography)
Two new cases of COVID-19 announced in Yukon

Contact tracing is complete and YG says there is no increased risk to the public

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on April 8. Yukon Energy faced a potential “critical” fuel shortage in January due to an avalanche blocking a shipping route from Skagway to the Yukon, according to an email obtained by the Yukon Party and questioned in the legislature on Oct. 14. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Energy faced ‘critical’ fuel shortage last January due to avalanche

An email obtained by the Yukon Party showed energy officials were concerned

Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys), the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. “Our government is proud to be supporting Yukon’s grassroots organizations and First Nation governments in this critical work,” said McLean of the $175,000 from the Yukon government awarded to four community-based projects aimed at preventing violence against Indigenous women. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government gives $175k to projects aimed at preventing violence against Indigenous women

Four projects were supported via the Prevention of Violence against Aboriginal Women Fund

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone

When I was a kid, CP Air had a monopoly on flights… Continue reading

asdf
EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse. Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting instead of 30 days to make up for lost time caused by COVID-19 in the spring. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Legislative assembly sitting extended

Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting. The extension… Continue reading

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Mad about MAD

Letters to the editor published Oct. 16, 2020

Alkan Air hangar in Whitehorse. Alkan Air has filed its response to a lawsuit over a 2019 plane crash that killed a Vancouver geologist on board, denying that there was any negligence on its part or the pilot’s. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Alkan Air responds to lawsuit over 2019 crash denying negligence, liability

Airline filed statement of defence Oct. 7 to lawsuit by spouse of geologist killed in crash

Whitehorse city council members voted Oct. 13 to decline an increase to their base salaries that was set to be made on Jan. 1. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Council declines increased wages for 2021

Members will not have wages adjusted for CPI

A vehicle is seen along Mount Sima Road in Whitehorse on May 12. At its Oct. 13 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the third reading for two separate bylaws that will allow the land sale and transfer agreements of city-owned land — a 127-square-metre piece next to 75 Ortona Ave. and 1.02 hectares of property behind three lots on Mount Sima Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse properties could soon expand

Land sale agreements approved by council

Most Read