During 2019, the Vuntut Gwitch’in Government (VGG) is proposing to build upon the results of a four year project which aims to better understand chum salmon spawning habitat in the Fishing Branch River and identify potential restoration projects for the watershed. A key finding of this habitat assessment work is that a portion of the Fishing Branch River becomes dewatered during the winter months resulting in complete egg mortality for chum which spawn in this area. The extent of this seasonally dewatered area varies from year to year and increases in length over the course of the winter and early spring. In some years, as many as 20% of the total number of redds upstream of the enumeration weir become dewatered. With this information in mind, the primary objective of the 2019 project is to remove spawning female chum salmon from the seasonally dewatered area, conduct an onsite egg take/fertilization and plant the fertilized eggs elsewhere in the river in spawning areas which do not become dewatered. The results of the 2019 work work will provide information on the feasibility of employing instream egg incubation as a method of helping to restore the chum spawning stock in the Fishing Branch River.
This proposal is a continuation of a project that has provided in-season stock composition estimates of chum salmon to fishery managers within 24 to 48 hours of receiving samples from the Pilot Station sonar test fishery since 2004. The products of the sonar and stock composition estimates provide stock abundance estimates in the lower river, which facilitates management of the fishery and run to meet passage of chum salmon into Canada.
The disparate strength of individual stocks within and among years makes it clear that in-season stock return data assists management to meet escapement. It provides a real-time tool that allows for informed decisions on regulating fisheries to meet escapement, whereas terminal escapement projects provide a post-season report on whether management decisions were successful. In this project, we will provide estimates of stock compositions for chum salmon stock groups to continue to facilitate Yukon River chum salmon management. Deliverables will include in-season stock composition estimates of the component of pulses of chum salmon that originate from Canada, which will be distributed by email fishery biologists and managers in both the U.S. and Canada. Furthermore, the estimates will be reported in the Yukon River Panel United States/Canada Joint Technical Committee’s (JTC) annual report and in a final report to the Yukon River Panel.
A baseline is a tool used in genetic mixed stock analysis (MSA) to reference the genetic composition of many populations. In MSA, stock of origin is estimated by comparing the genetics of a sample to the known genetic compositions of a baseline to determine which population the sample is most likely to have originated from. The current baseline used for Yukon River Chinook salmon MSA was last updated in 2014 and contains the genetic composition of 36 populations at 41 genetic positions (single nucleotide polymorphisms, SNPs). While this baseline has proven successful at determining stock-compositions at the country of origin (U.S. vs Canada) level of resolution, it has proven difficult to report to more specific regions while still meeting required guidelines for reporting (JTC, 1997). Here, we propose methods to increase the number of populations in the Yukon River Chinook salmon baseline from 36 to 48 and the number of markers from 41 to 299 in order to provide more specific reporting groups to all Yukon River Chinook salmon projects utilizing MSA.
For 2019, the project is planned to incorporate knowledge gained during 2018 to achieve the goal of obtaining a comprehensive understanding of Chinook spawning distribution in the upper portion of the Teslin River watershed. This will be accomplished through the following: increasing the number of tags to be applied, focusing the tag application on the early portion of the run, and increase the crew size to four individuals to allow for tag application to be completed 24 hours a day. Understanding of the extent and relative importance of tributaries used for spawning will guide monitoring efforts and future restoration activities to places where they are appropriate and will have the greatest potential for contributing to the restoration of Chinook salmon stocks. The new radio telemetry data will be combined with the existing data to strengthen the knowledge of Chinook spawning distributions and will make the data more relevant by applying tags throughout the run.
This project is a follow-up to the Restoration and Enhancement funded Porcupine Drainage Engagement: Gathering, Mapping and Integrating Local and Traditional Knowledge (LTK) for Community-based Stock Restoration Planning. The Porcupine River Community-based Salmon Management Plan will work with the community values, LTK, priorities, management suggestions and overall information that resulted from the year 2016-17 Porcupine Drainage Engagement. Goals are to:
1) Develop a Porcupine River Community-based Salmon Management Plan.
2) Develop a Community-based Salmon Management Planning Template for other communities to utilize.
The government of the First Nation of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun (NND) is proposing to conduct a site search to locate up to three candidate sites for the development of sonar based Chinook salmon stock assessment program on the lower Stewart River, downstream of the mouth of the McQuesten River. This project will include testing of sonar system on the lower Stewart River, at the selected candidate sites.
The goal of this project is to begin the development of a Chinook salmon stock assessment program on the lower Stewart River, for the purpose of determining annual Chinook salmon escapement into the Stewart River and its major spawning tributaries. The primary objective of this project is to evaluate the potential for the use of sonar as a stock assessment method to enumerate Chinook salmon in the lower Stewart River.
The goal of the Stock Restoration Initiative is to deliver a comprehensive one week salmon restoration educational workshop that leads to an informed group of Yukon Territory First Nation government representatives that will subsequently engage in stock restoration efforts, increasing territory wide capacity and focus interest on effective restoration principles and practice. This intends to meet the Near Term Priority of the Communications envelope to increase the desire of the public to maintain and protect stocks by better enabling and engaging representatives from around the territory. The initiative will bring experienced restoration experts to Whitehorse to provide lectures on their respective habitat and hatchery oriented restoration practices and use local stream habitats to provide on the ground examples of evaluations and opportunities for habitat restoration or enhancement. These experts will provide an overview of their experience including challenges and considerations for achieving successful projects and developing programs for stock restoration.
The Carcross/ Tagish First Nation (CTFN) has a long history of cultural connections and subsistence interaction with Yukon River Chinook salmon. There are documented accounts of adult Chinook salmon in the Tagish River system between Marsh Lake and Tagish Lake and elsewhere in the southern lakes system, including at the bridge in Carcross. Residents, CTFN citizens and commercial fishers have caught Chinook salmon in the past within this system and in the summer of 2014 CTFN Heritage, Lands and Natural Resources department (HLNR) caught two adult male Chinook salmon in one net that had been set at Deep Bay near the southern end of Tagish Lake. This catch provides the furthest upstream record, as well as the most recent account of Chinook salmon activity within the Southern Lakes.
This project will research and document through an Environmental Scan, the historical and traditional knowledge of where salmon were historically caught and their spawning areas in the Southern Lakes up-river of Marsh Lake.
CTFNs long term goal is to have substantially more salmon using traditional spawning grounds up-river of Marsh Lake and ultimately in the Yukon River. This project is one component of a larger overall project designed to identify and characterize Chinook salmon spawning sites in the Southern Lakes, up-river of Marsh Lake, with the long-term objective of restoring and enhancing the productivity of those sites. CTFN’s objective for the work outlined in this R&E proposal, is to understand the historical distribution and relative abundance of Chinook in the upper reaches of the Yukon River watershed through the collection of historical data and traditional knowledge. Other components of the overall project will use that data to assist in identifying and characterizing existing and historical spawning sites.
Yukon Fisheries Field Assistant Program is designed to meet Territorial needs for certified skilled fisheries workers. The Yukon River Panel’s Restoration and Enhancement Fund make monies available for community-initiated fisheries projects within the Yukon River drainage. However, there is often a shortage of qualified individuals to work on these projects. There is also an increasing need for technical capacity and technical skills related to conservation concerns of Yukon River salmon, and for First Nations to participate directly in data collection. This project directly addresses these needs by making training opportunities more readily available.
This project aims to provide the opportunity for a youth from the community to gain hands on learning of traditional and conventional conservation and stewardship methodologies which will help substantially to create and promote awareness towards the activities involved in by the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Government and by other local salmon restoration, management and enhancement projects. Local knowledge will also be incorporated into the student’s weekly activities.
Beginning in early June the student steward is provided with safety training before entering the field to ensure a safe summer. Support from the Student Steward carries a wide array of salmon related responsibilities which assist the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Fish and Wildlife Coordinator and Steward. At this time of year, the department is gearing up for the upcoming First Fish, which is an anticipated event for the youth and all involved. Preparation for the First Fish includes untangling gills nets, attaching lines for anchors, repairing the nets, boat preparation, bear and ATV safety. Other R & E projects in the area will be incorporated into the student steward’s work plan. Such projects could include the First Fish, the Klondike River Sonar Project and the DDRRC Rearing and Overwintering Access Restoration project.