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Blind Creek Chinook Salmon Enumeration Weir

Blind Creek is a significant Chinook salmon spawning stream flowing into the Pelly River, approximately 10 km southeast of the Town of Faro. Since 1995, a weir has been operated here annually (with the exception of 2001 and 2002) to enumerate Chinook salmon returns. Each season, a weir is installed and operated at the same location to enumerate Chinook salmon escapement and to conduct live sampling to obtain biological information from the stock. The weir project also provides a salmon viewing opportunity and on-site interpretation of the salmon resource and management programs for local residents and visitors. The goals of the project are: a) to provide a long term data set of information on a Chinook spawning population in the proposed Pelly River Conservation Unit and b) to increase public awareness of salmon management programs and conservation. This project will build on the information obtained from the 2003 to 2015 Blind Creek weir projects.

Genetic Stock Identification of Canadian-origin Yukon River Chinook and Chum Salmon

This project, which has been running since 2002, describes the stock composition of chum and Chinook salmon returning up the Yukon River to Canada. It estimates what proportion of these fish return to each of the genetically-identifiable stocks (by natal stream). Though monitoring of the aggregate is practical and the basis for much of the management, it is equally important to understand status and trends at the population level. Given the size of the Yukon River watershed and the climatic variation found within it, salmon populations within the watershed may experience significant differences.

The effectiveness of this project is closely tied to the development and refinement of the genetic baseline and the number of samples obtained from the Eagle Sonar Site. As more genetic samples are collected and analyzed from Eagle, the sampling error decreases and the estimates of stock compositions are made more reliable. There are two principal uses of the GSI information collected. The first is in assessing how genetic information compares to traditional stock assessment information. Fishery managers often rely on index stocks to understand both status and trends in particular populations or stocks, and for Yukon River salmon, many terminal escapement assessments are carried out each year (e.g., using sonars, aerial surveys, and counting weirs), which can be costly and logistically challenging, and typically assess only one population at a time. When combined with sonar counts, genetic proportion estimates can be expanded to provide escapement estimates for particular populations. The second is that the information in aggregate can be used to estimate the productivity of each population of Canadian-origin salmon. This type of information is critical to local management planning and is of great interest to First Nation governments and communities as they seek greater information on the fish that return to their traditional territory. Projects focused on stock restoration also need to understand which stocks are currently highly productive and which are not.



Fishing Branch River Chum Habitat Assessment

The Fishing Branch River is a major spawning destination for Porcupine River chum salmon. Past R&E work has indicated that in excess of 65% of chum salmon in the upper Porcupine River have been known to spawn in the upper reaches of the river, above the site of the DFO enumeration weir. The 2011 Integrated Fisheries Management Plan developed by DFO and the Yukon River Panel included an escapement goal of 20,000 to 49,000 chum salmon at the Fishing Branch weir. However, since 2006, counts at the weir have been displaying a downward trend and fallen within the lower end of, or below this range during the last several years. In addition, recent chum salmon returns at the Fishing Branch weir have been lower relative to Yukon River border escapement than historical returns, despite active in-season harvest management.

The overall objective of this project is to collect baseline information on chum salmon spawning ecology in the Fishing Branch which may help to explain the decline in the stock and/or inform potential restoration activities for chum in the watershed.



Porcupine River Chum Salmon Restoration Incubation and Rearing Pilot Project

The Fishing Branch River is a historically and culturally rich area considered sacred to the Vuntuut Gwitch’in people. The area is also recognized as the principle spawning area for Canadian-origin chum salmon within the Porcupine River watershed. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has operated a chum salmon enumeration weir on the Fishing Branch River from 1971 to 2012 and again in 2015. The abundance of Chum salmon, based on counts at the Fishing Branch weir, has steadily declined since 2006 and has consistently failed to meet the lower end (and now below) the interim escapement goal of 22,000 to 49,000.

In 2013, the Vuntut Gwitch’in Government (VGG) undertook habitat assessment investigations in an effort to better understand potential limits to chum salmon production in the Fishing Branch River. Habitat conditions for chum salmon spawning and egg incubation were evaluated in a study area approximately 5 km downstream of the weir to the upstream end of the continuous wetted river channel, and it was concluded that the current fish habitat, hydrologic and geomorphological conditions in the Fishing Branch River study area were well suited to successful chum salmon spawning, egg incubation and rearing of fry. Furthermore, none of the parameters evaluated indicate that changes to habitat in the Fishing Branch River study area can be attributed to the decline in the abundance of chum salmon, as compared to past observations at the Fishing Branch weir site.

In consideration of the cultural importance – both as a food source and as a component of a traditional lifestyle – of chum salmon to Vuntut Gwitch’in citizens, and in light of current Yukon River Panel Near Term Restoration Priorities, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and VGG are partnering to build on the Fishing Branch River assessment work to date in furthering investigations to identify limits to productivity while also exploring potential stock restoration strategies.

The long term goal of the project is to contribute to the growing body of work on Porcupine River origin chum salmon through a mark/recovery program to better understand factors contributing to the downward trend in stock abundance while maintaining a wild spawning population in the Fishing Branch River – an area generally well suited for spawning, successful incubation/overwintering, alevin development and fry rearing.

The short term goal is to implement a trial egg take /incubation/rearing program to raise and mark 20,000 Porcupine chum salmon fry for outplant and subsequent monitoring and assessment.


Yukon River Panel Press Release for April 2017

The Yukon River Panel held their 2017 Pre-Season Meeting in Whitehorse, Yukon between April 3rd and April 5th, 2017.  Highlights of the meeting may be found in the Press Release. Meeting minutes are under development and will be made available in due course.

Ta’an Kwäch’än Family Fish Camp

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Yukon River Salmon are highly valued by Yukon First Nation people as part of a healthy heritage, culture,environment and way of life. Chinook salmon (gyu – Southern Tutchone) is an important component of identity and figures prominently in stories, history, diet, traditional activities and conservation efforts. Educating citizens about selective fishing encourages people to continue fishing, while addressing conservation concerns and promoting a viable First nations fishery.

TKC is an urban based First Nation with a demonstrated need for structured programs, such as family fish camp, to teach the younger generation traditional ways in a modern context, in an environment where Elders, youth and families share time and learn cooperatively from one another.

In order to meet with TKC’s mission and vision statements for the “preservation, balance, and harmony of our traditional territory” and to “honor, respect, protect and care for our environment, people, economy and traditional culture as practiced by our elders” the family fish camps are vital in order to fulfill this need.

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Fish Youth Camp

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First Fish Camp is hosted by Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in for youth and families. It is a way for people to learn about the heritage and traditions of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, as well as the importance of the river and modern day environmental pressures on this important part of the culture. It is an opportunity for the community to have fellowship with one another; families, youth and Elders.


Yukon River Educational Exchange – Salmon Know No Borders

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An educational exchange is a powerful, intensive approach to transferring knowledge and transforming perceptions. Participants have the opportunity to witness, question, and interact with the subject matter first hand, which can foster much deeper understanding than other forms of communication typically provide. As such, the Yukon River Educational Exchange Program is a sound way for fishers and other fisheries stakeholders from the U.S. and Canada to come together to learn about the international agreement, to appreciate the different salmon resource users, and to increase awareness of fishery-related issues.

U.S. and Canadian users of the salmon resource are participants in a world of interdependence. Understanding differences in culture, lifestyle, and opinion proves to strengthen one’s ability to think and act on a cooperative basis. Therefore, a key priority of this project is to enhance contact between upriver and downriver fishers, as one becomes the exchange participant and the other the host community member.

Participants in the Yukon River Educational Exchange are challenged to learn by pursuing issues of interest and concern, to research through observation and personal experience, and to document their experience for further transfer of knowledge with their home communities. The exchange also takes advantage of the participants’ differences in age, motivation, cultural background, and past fisheries experience. The most effective exchange experience requires participants be immersed in the host community to develop and nurture a holistic and mutual view of life on the Yukon River.


Porcupine River Chum Sonar Report

Salmon migrating up the Porcupine River through the Traditional Territory of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation (VGFN) are culturally important to VGFN citizens. Old Crow, the only Canadian community on the Porcupine River, relies on the salmon fishery as a source of traditional food. The subsistence harvest of salmon on the Porcupine River is an important component of local people’s diets.

Three salmon species spawn in the Canadian portion of the Porcupine River: Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), chum (Oncorhynchus keta) and coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Chinook and chum salmon are managed jointly through the Yukon River Panel’s Joint Technical Committee (JTC) process; there is currently no joint management process for coho salmon. The Yukon River Panel was established to manage “transboundary” salmon stocks (which move through waters subject to both U.S. and Canadian fisheries management processes) in a cooperative forum.

This project focused on the chum salmon run, which passes Old Crow in late summer. A former DFO enumeration weir on the Fishing Branch River (a tributary to the Porcupine River) historically recorded annual passage rates between approximately 5,057 and 186,000 fall chum, with an average annual return of approximately 44,000 (during the period of 1998 to 2011; JTC 2012). Genetic sampling of fall chum salmon at the Pilot Station sonar (in Alaska) provides broad scale information on the chum run in the entire Yukon River; since 1995 fall chum salmon counted at the Fishing Branch River weir have accounted for 4% of the total Yukon River fall chum salmon run (JTC 2012)

The Vuntut Gwitch’in Government (VGG) is committed to improving in-season enumeration and management capacity for fall chum salmon in the Porcupine River. In order to provide an accurate and timely in-season estimate of adult fall chum salmon passage at Old Crow, VGG has pursued the development of a sonar enumeration program.  The goals of this program were to:

  • Enumerate passing fall chum salmon;
  • Conduct test netting (using drift nets) to apportion the sonar counts;
  • Develop local capacity to conduct fisheries work within the community of Old Crow.