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Low chinook salmon run predicted

Yukon and Alaskan fisheries' officials expect a lower than normal chinook salmon run again this season.

Yukon and Alaskan fisheries’ officials expect a lower than normal chinook salmon run again this season.

The forecast dominated discussion at a recent meeting of the Yukon River Panel in Anchorage, the panel said in a news release.

Although no limits will be set until the run actually starts, the priority will be to allow a significant number of Canadian-origin chinook past the border before the Alaskans start harvesting, the release said.

“This is a challenging endeavour, which is extremely important for sustaining future runs,” it said.

Fisheries managers in Alaska are already speaking to local fishermen about management strategies and the options they have to allow sufficient Canadian salmon through to the Yukon.

The Alaskan catch was strictly regulated in 2011.

“To their credit, they managed in-season,” Steve Smith, of the Yukon region of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said last July. “It’s the early fish that are the higher percentage of Canadian origin. The focus is to try and protect that front-end of the run.”

Alaska did allow commercial fishing of chum salmon last year. Some chinook were caught as bycatch. But the fishermen were prohibited from selling them to try to keep that bycatch low.

Chinook salmon can sell for a couple hundred dollars a fish, or $35 to $50 per pound.

In 2010, no restrictions were placed on Alaska’s subsistence fisheries and they did not meet the agreed-upon goal for the number of fish they’d let pass through the border.

In 2011, when Alaska did allow the agreed amount of fish through, the pre-season predictions for the run were “below average.” This year it is anticipated to be “below average to poor.”

The Yukon River Panel doesn’t seem to know why the chinook run remains low, but it’s handed out more than $9 million for projects to enhance stewardship, management and recovery of the fish stocks since 2002, the press release said.

This year, some of this money will go to projects such as test fisheries and population monitoring. Subsistence harvest surveys will be done in Alaska and all along the drainage in the Yukon, including Dawson City, Mayo, Old Crow, Teslin and Whitehorse.

There are also plans to build more technological infrastructure on the Canadian side, including sonar stations and “advanced genetic stock identification technology.”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at