More First Nations stand up for chinook

Six more Yukon First Nations are speaking out about this year's chinook run.

Six more Yukon First Nations are speaking out about this year’s chinook run.

The Teslin Tlingit and Ta’an Kwach’an councils, the White River, Carcross/Tagish and Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, and the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun issued a joint press release Wednesday, calling on everyone – on both sides of the border -“to take ownership of their collective responsibility.”

The release comes on the heels of an emergency meeting held by the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation to encourage another year of conservative salmon harvests and to brainstorm ideas on how to help the fish come back in bigger numbers.

These six other First Nations are also asking their citizens to make “painful sacrifices on how many fish they harvest.”

It is something they have been doing for many years now, they say.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans applauds the First Nations’ leadership.

“They’ve been exemplary,” said Steve Smith with the Yukon’s branch of the federal department. “They have (voluntarily restricted harvests for years) and I admire them for taking the leadership and developing strategies that work for their communities.”

But the unified action the First Nations are calling for already exists, said Smith.

The Yukon River Panel is made up of both Yukoners and Alaskans. It ensures the salmon run is managed in a collaborative way and adheres to the international treaty signed for the salmon.

It is supported by a technical committee, made up largely of biologists, that offers recommendations for conservation and sustainable use, said Smith. One recommendation that has already been implemented is a restriction on net sizes.

The Yukon River Panel is also widely supported by First Nations and subsistence fishermen on both sides of the border, said Smith. Most of the Yukon’s representatives also sit on the Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee, which was derived from the territory’s land claim and self-government agreements.

Currently, forecasts predict a total of 34,000 to 42,000 chinook will cross the US-Canada border, said Smith.

It is low, but recent years have shown similar runs, he added.

As of Thursday, 23,009 chinook have passed the sonar counting station at Eagle, near the border. The average for a late run at this time is 24,116.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at