Teslin Tlingit Council to resume chinook salmon fish camps

The Teslin Tlingit Council will hold two fish camps this summer to preserve its traditions and teach young people about the life cycle of the chinook salmon.

The Teslin Tlingit Council will hold two fish camps this summer to preserve its traditions and teach young people about the life cycle of the chinook salmon.

But the First Nation plans to harvest just 40 salmon — 20 from each camp.

“We’re trying to find a balance between conserving the salmon and also preserving our tradition,” said Duane Aucoin, the Yanyeidi executive councillor with the Teslin Tlingit Council.

The First Nation has restricted its chinook salmon fishery for the past 17 years, first to five days a week and then to a weekend fishery, Aucoin said. In 2014, it imposed a complete moratorium, which meant no more fish camps.

But Aucoin said that’s had an impact on the community’s culture, and especially on the younger generation.

“Some of our young children have never experienced fish camp,” he said. “They’ve never experienced the natural life cycle of the chinook salmon.”

This year, as for the past two years, the number of chinook salmon crossing the Alaska-Yukon border has surpassed the minimum threshold for First Nation fisheries. As of Monday morning, 51,400 salmon had crossed the border and the first few had begun to arrive at the Whitehorse Fish Ladder. The cutoff for a First Nation fishery is 42,500.

Aucoin said the Teslin Tlingit Council has decided to only allow fish camps if the border escapement is higher than 48,750 chinook.

And even this year’s fish camps, which will take only 40 salmon, are largely symbolic, Aucoin said.

“Traditionally, in the heyday … Teslin would harvest approximately 1,000 a year,” he said.

Though minimum targets are being met, this year’s chinook salmon run is still very low.

“Although we’re getting reasonable escapement … the overall run size is still half of what it used to be in the ’80s and ’90s,” said Mary Ellen Jarvis, a resource manager with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Historical runs numbered around 150,000 fish, she said.

And Aucoin said it’s not just the numbers that are down. “It’s also the quality of the runs that has dropped drastically.”

He can remember running nets with his mother as a child.

“I was terrified,” he said. “The salmon were as big as me that she was pulling in.”

Now, he said, the salmon are mostly younger and smaller.

Still, this year’s fish camps will allow elders to teach the younger generation about the fishery and to share stories and songs.

One of the camps will take place on the Teslin River, and the other on Teslin Lake. Aucoin said the youth will get to set and run the nets, and harvest, clean, smoke and eat the salmon.

They will also perform a ceremony to welcome the first salmon. Aucoin said the first salmon caught will be put back in the water, facing the ocean. The people will thank the salmon for coming and ask its spirit to return to the ocean and tell others how well the people treated them.

After the camps, the community will hold a feast. Aucoin said leftovers will be smoked and dried and handed out to elders and youth.

The dates for the camps haven’t been set yet, but they will likely happen between the second and third weeks of August to allow the first females to pass through safely, Aucoin said.

Despite the First Nation’s decision to open camps, Aucoin harbours no illusions about the state of the fishery. This year, the Teslin Tlingit Council will continue to fly Taku River salmon into the community so that people don’t have to go without.

In 2014, the Teslin Tlingit Council committed to a full closure of the fishery for six years, or one lifecycle of the salmon. When that ends in 2020, the elders council will revisit the issue.

“Who knows, maybe they’ll loosen the restrictions a little,” Aucoin said. “But I don’t think we’ll ever get back to full-blown, back to the way it was 20 years ago.

“I think we will always be in conservation mode.”

Contact Maura Forrest at

maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

The Yukon Department of Education building in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. Advocates are calling on the Department of Education to reverse their redefinition of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that led to 138 students losing the program this year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Advocates call redefinition of IEPs “hugely concerning,” call for reversal

At least 138 students were moved off the learning plans this year

Medical lab technologist Angela Jantz receives her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Whitehorse hospital on Jan. 13. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Online booking system for Moderna vaccine opens as mobile teams prepare to visit communities

“The goal is to protect everyone and stop the spread of COVID-19”

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Jan. 15, 2021

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.

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

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

Most Read