Officials plan for another dismal chinook run

In a run of bad years for Yukon chinook, this coming season could end up being the worst. Alaskan officials have announced that all chinook salmon fishing will be closed on the Yukon River this summer.

In a run of bad years for Yukon chinook, this coming season could end up being the worst.

Alaskan officials have announced that all chinook salmon fishing will be closed on the Yukon River this summer.

“At this time now, we’re basically approaching it as if there’s not going to be any opportunity for chinook harvest whatsoever for both commercial and subsistence this year,” said Jeffrey Estensen with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in an interview Tuesday.

This is the most restrictive measure ever taken. Some fishing will be allowed to target other species, under conditions designed to allow chinook to pass.

Many Alaskan communities depend on the Yukon chinook run for subsistence. In recent years, some have protested restrictions by fishing illegally.

But as the chinook runs continue to decline, more groups and communities are joining the call to shut down the river.

At a meeting of the Yukon River Panel in Whitehorse in December many spoke to the need for even tighter restrictions on harvest.

This year, between 31,000 and 61,000 Canadian-origin chinook are expected to enter the mouth of the Yukon River, said Steve Gotch, a director with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The department is expecting the numbers to fall on the low end that range, he said.

Last year the total run size of Canadian-origin chinook was an estimated 37,915 fish, he said.

Of those, only an estimated 28,669 escaped fishing nets along the way and made it to spawning grounds, he said.

Under federal treaty, Alaska must allow 42,500 fish to pass into Canadian waters, plus enough to allow for First Nations to share in the harvest. That goal has not been met in five of the last seven years.

How the run is managed on this side of the border this year will depend on how many fish actually show up, said Gotch.

In the past, the department has worked with First Nations to implement voluntary restrictions on the aboriginal fishery.

If fewer than 30,000 chinook make it to the border, the department could consider shutting down the First Nation fishery altogether. Such a closure has never happened.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is currently consulting with First Nations and the Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee, said Gotch. The committee will bring recommendations to the department in late May or early June, he said.

In the legislature Tuesday, the Opposition NDP called on the Yukon government to do more to protect the chinook run.

“When will this government realize that it cannot stand idly by while other governments and branches oversee the unprecedented decline of the Yukon River chinook salmon stocks?” asked MLA Jim Tredger.

Environment Minister Currie Dixon noted that the premier has met with various groups about the issue and thanked Alaska for its leadership.

“We are pleased to see action being taken by Alaska. We are cautiously optimistic that this action will be fulfilled and that it will be enforced, regulated and inspected as appropriate.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Members of the RCMP’s traffic services team examine police markers on Range Road after a six-year-old boy was struck by a vehicle near the Takhini Arena in Whitehorse on Oct. 25. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Six-year-old hit by vehicle near Takhini Arena

Police were called to the scene around 12:15 p.m. on Oct. 25

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. Two new cases of COVID-19 were identified in Watson Lake over the weekend. The cases are connected to three others in the community previously announced by officials on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two additional COVID-19 cases in Watson Lake bring total up to five

Individuals with symptoms and connections to the three other cases were tested over the weekend

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three new COVID-19 cases identified in Watson Lake

The Yukon government has identified three locations in town where public exposure may have occurred

Teagan Wiebe, left, and Amie Wiebe pose for a photo with props during The Guild’s haunted house dress rehearsal on Oct. 23. The Heart of Riverdale Community Centre will be hosting its second annual Halloween haunted house on Oct. 30 and 31, with this year’s theme being a plague. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Plague-themed haunted house to take over Heart of Riverdale for Halloween

A plague will be descending upon the Heart of Riverdale Community Centre… Continue reading

Indigenous lobster boats head from the harbour in Saulnierville, N.S. on Oct. 21. Elected officials in the Yukon, including all 19 members of the legislature, are backing the right of Mi’kmaq fishers on the East Coast to launch a moderate livelihood fishery. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)
Yukon legislature passes motion to support Mi’kmaw fishery

“It’s not easy, but it’s also necessary for us to have these very difficult conversations”

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging the reduction of its caribou quota to zero. (Yukon News file)
YG replies to outfitter’s legal challenge over caribou quota

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging… Continue reading

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this year, saying that with COVID-19, it’s “more important than ever.” (Black Press file)
Get flu vaccine, Yukon government urges

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

asdf
COMMENTARY: Me and systemic racism

The view from a place of privilege

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading

Most Read