The Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee has recommended a full closure on chinook salmon fishing this year as run numbers continue to plummet.
Managers on both sides of the border are putting in place unprecedented conservation measures in the face of what could be the worst run on record.
“The YSSC doesn’t take this responsibility lightly and understands the sacrifices and hardship that comes from not being able to harvest Yukon River chinook salmon,” said Pauline Frost, the committee’s chair, in a news release.
“We have heard from Yukon First Nations how difficult this will be for the elders and the youth that won’t have chinook salmon hanging in their fish camps. We know that a number of Yukon First Nations have already been conserving and voluntarily restricting their fisheries for some time now. We hope this closure will in the long term ultimately result in a return of chinook salmon to the levels that we have seen in the past.”
The United States is obligated under treaty with Canada to allow 42,500 chinook to cross the border, plus enough for First Nations to take a share of the harvest.
That goal has not been met in five of the past seven years, and again this year it is unlikely the goal will be met.
Early run estimates suggest that between 31,000 and 61,000 Canadian-origin chinook will enter the Yukon River this year, and that the actual number will fall on the low end of that spectrum.
Last year’s run was an estimated 37,915 Canadian-origin fish, of which only 28,669 were estimated to have made it to spawning grounds.
This year, the U.S. government has shut down all targeted chinook salmon harvesting on the Yukon River on its side of the border. That has never been done before.
On the Canadian side, all Yukon River chinook fishing has been shut down in recent years except for the aboriginal harvest, and First Nations have been asked to cut back voluntarily.
If the federal Fisheries and Oceans minister accepts the committee’s recommendation, this year no Yukon River chinook harvest will be permitted at all.
The committee consulted with Yukon First Nations in reaching its recommendation, according to the letter sent to Fisheries Minister Gail Shea last week.
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at email@example.com