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More calls for action on dismal chinook run

The NDP has called for the premier to respond to this year's dismal return of chinook salmon.

The NDP has called for the premier to respond to this year’s dismal return of chinook salmon.

“While Alaskan Governor (Sean) Parnell has been vocal on the Yukon River chinook salmon situation, Premier Pasloski has said nothing,” said Mayo-Tatchun MLA Jim Tredger.

“Has he even spoken with his Alaskan counterpart, First Nation chiefs or the Government of Canada about the situation?”

The Alaskan governor recently urged the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to declare both the 2011 and 2012 chinook runs to be a disaster on the Yukon River.

Here on the Canadian side, officials are still waiting to see how bad it will be.

As of Wednesday, 10,400 chinook had made it to the Eagle sonar counter near the Canada-U.S. border.

Usually, at this time of year, at least a quarter of the run is past that point, said Jeff Grout with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The run will likely be worse than in 2011, said Grout, and possibly the worst on record.

When a run of between 30,000 and 51,000 fish is expected, the fishery on this side of the border is restricted to First Nation harvesting only, Grout said.

If the projected run numbers drop below 30,000, the department would consider shutting down the fishery entirely.

That has never happened before, said Mary Ellen Jarvis with territory’s branch of the federal department.

Some First Nations are already advising their fishermen to cut back this year to help the salmon get to their spawning grounds.

The Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation held an emergency meeting Wednesday to warn the community of the low numbers.

Communities on both sides of the border meet for a weekly conference call to discuss the Yukon River salmon.

This year saw many closures to subsistence fishing on the Alaska side of the border, but until officials have a better sense of the run numbers, we won’t know how much of a difference those management decisions have made.

On the Canadian side, each First Nation has the authority to regulate their own fishery and implement their own rules for limiting the catch, when necessary.

That could change if the numbers start to look worse than they do already, and Ottawa decides to shut down the harvest entirely.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at