Chinook salmon at the Whitehorse Fish Ladder in 2013. Selkirk First Nation says that as of Aug. 5, its sonar on the Pelly River has counted about 7,900 fish. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

Selkirk First Nation says chinook salmon numbers similar to last year’s

Sonar on the Pelly River had counted just more than 7,900 chinook as of Aug. 5

This year’s chinook salmon run on the Pelly River appears to be mirroring 2017’s, says Selkirk First Nation’s (SFN) fish and wildlife officer, with a slow start to the season and a similar numbers of fish being counted by the sonar.

In an interview Aug. 6, Eugene Alfred said as of Aug. 5, the sonar has counted just more than 7,900 chinook, about the same number of fish it counted this time last year.

That’s despite the much smaller number of fish making up this year’s total run — the Pilot Station sonar, located near where the Yukon River meets the Bering Sea, counted about 160,000 chinook enter the river this year, compared to more than 259,000 last year.

At this point in the season, Alfred said, it appears that the run on the Pelly River has peaked and the number of fish passing through is gradually decreasing. He added that it’s likely the total run this year will square up with 2017’s, which saw about 9,000 chinook pass through.

The Pelly River sonar, located near the mouth of the river and operated by SFN, has only been in place since 2016 (when it was only counting for a month), meaning that not enough data has been collected yet to pick out any major trends. SFN is also still ironing out details on how to ensure the best data collection — for example, this year, SFN put the sonar in a week later and plans to leave it in longer to see if more fish appear later in the season.

Also new this year is SFN’s Pelly River salmon management plan, which Alfred said was only completed last week.

“One of the big backbones of that management plan, it talks about our Doòli, which is our traditional law, and it talks about the four principles of that, which is caring, sharing, teaching and respect…. It kind of helps you live in harmony with your surroundings,” he said.

“This plan, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity that this can be a template (for) other management plans, whether it’s moose, sheep or caribou or other (fish).… It gives the community an opportunity (to show) that they can be managers and not be managed.”

While SFN fish camps have been able to harvest chinook this summer, Alfred said the First Nation is still very much in conservation mode, which has been the case for at least the last three years. SFN is recommending that camps take only up to 30 fish, that they use only one 50-foot net with five to six-inch mesh and that citizens release all live females and larger males.

Alfred said citizens have been responding well to the recommendations year to year, and that management plans come with some built-in flexibility — for example, some larger camps may harvest more fish as they have larger families to feed. On the other hand, if the numbers of chinook coming in are “just too low,” SFN will also “be respectful and withdraw” from harvesting at all.

Overall, about 90 per cent of this year’s chinook run is estimated to have crossed into Canada, with the Eagle sonar station, located on the Yukon River near the Alaska-Yukon border, counting 53,092 chinook as of Aug. 6.

In an interview Aug. 7, Fisheries and Oceans Canada fishery manager Mary Ellen Jarvis said that “the picture’s pretty clear” at this point that the run will meet this year’s escapement goal of 48,750.

She added that it’s been “an odd year,” explaining that usually, chinook arrive in “pulses,” but this year, the migration started “very slow” and then turned into a prolonged, “fairly steady stream of fish.”

Officials were also concerned earlier in the season about the extreme heat throughout the territory and the impact it could have on the run (chinook do best in cool water), but the recent weather has alleviated that worry.

“It’s good to see that things are cooling off now, now that we’re getting into active spawning season,” Jarvis said.

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

chinookSelkirk First Nation

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

Just Posted

Zhùr, the ancient wolf pup found mummified in permafrost at Last Chance Creek mine in July 2016. (Government of Yukon/Submitted)
‘Mummy’ wolf pup unearthed in permafrost paints a picture of ice age ancestors

Zhùr is the best preserved and most complete mummy of an ancient wolf found to date.

Former premier Tony Penikett begins a presentation at the Whitehorse Public Library about his book, Hunting the Northern Character, on Dec. 11, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Former premier named to Order of Canada

Tony Penikett reflects on career

Ed Hopkins starts the 36-mile race at the Carbon Hill Race Day on Jan. 10. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Dogs take over Mount Lorne for Carbon Hill Race Day

The Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon (DPSAY) hosted its annual… Continue reading

As it gets set to turn over ownership of its supportive housing building downtown to Yukon Housing, Options For Independence will not be required to pay back more than $65,000 in City of Whitehorse grants it was provided towards property taxes, decided city councillors on Jan. 11. (John Hopkins-HIll/Yukon News file)
Exemption granted for building transfer

Options For Independence won’t be required to pay back city grants

Mayor Dan Curtis speaks during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on March 9, 2020. Whitehorse property owners can expect their 2021 property tax bills to rise by less than a per cent if the operating budget for the year is adopted as proposed. “A minimal tax increase allows the city to maintain its many existing services and programs, while also supporting important initiatives such as climate change mitigation and enhanced bylaw enforcement,” Curtis said. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Minimal increase proposed for Whitehorse property taxes

Budget would see 0.34 per cent tax increase

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21, 2020. Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive up to $20,000 to help recover from losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Details released on relief funding for tourism and culture non-profits

Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive… Continue reading

Mayo-Tatchun MLA Don Hutton won’t be runing for re-election. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mayo-Tatchun MLA won’t run for re-election

Liberal MLA Don Hutton won’t be running for re-election. A former wildland… Continue reading

Large quantities of a substance believed to be cocaine, a large amount of cash, several cells phones and a vehicle were all seized after RCMP searched a Whistle Bend home on Jan. 6. (Photo courtesy RCMP)
Seven arrested after drug trafficking search

RCMP seized drugs, money from Whistle Bend residence on Jan. 6

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Whitehorse RCMP are seeing a growing trend of vehicle break-and-enters in the Kopper King area. (Black Press file)
Series of break-and-enters in Kopper King area

Series of break-and-enters in Kopper King area Whitehorse RCMP are seeing a… Continue reading

Signage near the newly opened Dawson City ice bridge. (Sandy Silver/Facebook)
Dawson City ice bridge opens

The Dawson ice bridge has opened. In a Jan. 6 social media… Continue reading

Whitehorse RCMP are requesting assistance identifying three suspects who stole tens of thousands of dollars of property from Cobalt Construction on the evenings of Dec. 28, 29, and 30. They were operating a stolen Toyota Camry, which was beige in colour with the license plate HML66. (Photo courtesy RCMP)
RCMP seeking three suspects after burglary

Whitehorse RCMP are requesting assistance identifying three suspects who stole tens of… Continue reading

Most Read