Salmon swim through the Whitehorse fish ladder in 2016. All of 2018’s chinook salmon run is believed to have entered the Yukon River at this point, with preliminary data suggesting that the number of Canadian-origin fish is on the low end of the pre-season forecast. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Early-season chinook salmon numbers on low end of forecast

Preliminary testing suggests that about 71,000 chinook in this year’s run are Canadian-origin

All of this year’s chinook salmon run is believed to have entered the Yukon River at this point, with preliminary data suggesting that the number of Canadian-origin fish is on the low end of the pre-season forecast.

According to numbers from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Pilot Station sonar — located on the west coast of the state where the mouth of the Yukon River meets the Bering Sea — has counted about 160,000 chinook entering the river since early June, with what’s believed to be the last group of fish having passed through earlier this week.

Based on preliminary genetic testing, about 71,000 of those fish are believed to be Canadian-origin chinook.

This year’s pre-season forecast had predicted a weak run in the range of 71,000 to 103,000 salmon, a long way from historical numbers that have reached as high as 150,000.

The first chinook salmon crossed into Canadian waters on June 29 via the Porcupine River. On the Yukon River, the Eagle sonar, located near the Alaska-Yukon border, counted its first fish on July 4.

Officials believe about 50 per cent of the run has passed through Eagle, with 26,387 fish counted as of July 24. Chinook are also being logged by sonar stations at Blind Creek, Big Salmon and Pelly. At least one has been spotted at the Whitehorse fish ladder, although no fish have actually passed through yet.

In an interview July 26, Fisheries and Oceans Canada fishery manager Mary Ellen Jarvis said that there’s a high likelihood the run will meet the Canadian spawning escapement target of 48,750. She also said it appears the run is a little later than average in passing through Eagle. Other than that, Jarvis said it’s too early in the season to make further observations.

She added that it’s unclear how many fish will be available for harvest by First Nations, and until more data comes out of the Eagle sonar, many are taking a conservative approach.

Other than First Nations subsistence harvest, no other fishing of chinook is allowed.

In a phone interview from Old Crow, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation’s (VGFN) fish and wildlife manager Darius Elias said that citizens have been able to harvest roughly 250 chinook so far, and that the issues that plagued last year’s run on the Porcupine River, including low water levels and high water temperatures, have not been an issue.

That number’s better than last year’s harvest of only about 150 fish and as of July 24, the Porcupine sonar had counted 1,526 chinook, already 400 more than the number counted by the station in mid-August last year. However, Elias noted that this year’s numbers are still nowhere near historical runs and harvests.

“The overall trajectory of the chinook salmon run is basically heading in the wrong direction for the last 20 years and the Porcupine River watershed is no exception.… People are using the precautionary principle and just taking as much as they basically need for the winter,” he said.

Elias added that there are “not very many nets in the river” at the moment in order to support conservation efforts, and the ones that are being used have small four- to six-inch mesh sizes, which allows larger females to get through to the spawning grounds.

“Salmon are the biological foundation of river system and we have to respect that and so, at the same time, we have to feed our families a little bit from what we get,” he said.

“It’s a sad state of affairs from when I was a kid because you can’t really put a price or a value on not being able to teach your culture to your children.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Yukon government was wrong in evicting youth from a group home, commissioner finds

The health department has roughly two months to respond to recommendations

Stephanie Dixon ready to dive into new role as chef de mission for 2019 Parapan American Games and 2020 Paralympic Games

“You do it because you believe in yourself and you have people around you that believe in you”

WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World

Whitehorse becomes first community north of 60 to have private pot shop

Triple J’s Canna Space opens its doors to first customers

Whitehorse council news, briefly

Some of the news that came out of Whitehorse city council this week

Snowmobiles and snow bikes descend on Mount Sima for Yukon Yamaha Uphill Challenge

“I think everyone had their eyes opened on what could be done there”

Yukon Orienteering Association starts Coast Mountain Sports Sprint Series off in the right direction

The race on April 11 was the first of five sprint races planned for the spring

Yukon gymnasts stick the landing at inaugural B.C. Junior Olympic Compulsory Championships

Seven Polarettes earned five podium finishes at the two-day event in Langley, B.C.

École Émilie-Tremblay hosts first Yukon elementary school wrestling meet of 2019

“You can grab kids and you can trip and you can do that rough play, but there are rules”

Driving with Jens: Survey says….

If you’re like me, you probably feel inundated with surveys. It seems… Continue reading

Editorial: Promising electoral reform is the easy part

Details of what that would actually look like are much harder to come by

Yukonomist: The centre of the business universe moves 4,000 k.m. northwest

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business named Whitehorse Canada’s top place to start and grow a business

Whitehorse starts getting ready for Japanese students

This summer 13 Japanese students are slated to come north

Most Read