Category: Fund Project

Vuntut Gwitchin Young Fishers: studying energy flows in the Porcupine

The Vuntut Gwitchin Young Fishers is a local Canadian Stewardship project and a pilot project for what will hopefully become a long-term Stewardship Program for the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation (VGFN). This project will be an ongoing collaboration between the Vuntut Gwitchin Government and the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School of Old Crow that will engage senior students in a collective fishery science project every year.  For this pilot project will have Young Fishers collecting, dissecting, examining, and documenting the stomach contents of predatory fish captured in Community Fisheries. Concurrently, we will seek to have the stomach contents analysed by genetic methods in a research laboratory. During this pilot stage the main source of samples will be the winter burbot fishery at the mouth of the Old Crow River. Opportunities to sample other fisheries will be taken if possible, in particular during a spring expedition to the headwaters at Whitestone Village. Juvenile Chinook, (fall) chum, and coho salmon will be the prey species and life stages of interest. The stomach contents will be a proxy for the energy flow through the ecosystems of the Porcupine River: essentially, which fish eats which other fish and how important are salmon species as prey.

An Integrated Run Abundance Projection Model for Canadian-origin Yukon River Chinook Salmon

We propose to develop a new statistical model to assist agencies responsible for managing the Canadian-origin Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) stock in meeting objectives outlined in the Yukon River Salmon Agreement. This new model will improve upon and seamlessly integrate existing preseason forecast and inseason run projection models within a unified Bayesian statistical framework. Our approach will use a process whereby preseason expectations of total run size can be updated in real-time based on available stock-specific information collected inseason. A Bayesian updating model, like the one we propose to develop, addresses the challenge management agencies face when deciding how and when to transition from making management decisions based on preseason information to decisions based on inseason information. By approaching this challenge though an integrated modeling framework, management agencies will benefit from inseason projections that are transparent, objective, reproducible, statistically defensible, and address uncertainty in ways that explicitly assist with fishery management decisions.

Nisutlin River instream incubation trial and aerial surveys

This project involves a combination of field work and assessments, aerial surveys, and office tasks to complete a small instream incubation trial in the mainstem of the Nisutlin River with the intent of gathering comparative data for Chinook egg survival in Deadman Creek, Morley River and other Yukon Chinook spawning areas. In recent years, Morley River has been used as a control for Chinook restoration in the Teslin River watershed (Deadman Creek). However, previous work done on the Nisutlin River has shown that it could potentially be a better control to compare to restoration efforts in the Teslin River watershed, and, more specifically, provide more appropriate comparisons for assessing the success of incubating activities in Deadman Creek. Results of this project (wild survival) will not only be useful for this project but will also fill a considerable data gap for Yukon River Chinook and will help to inform Chinook stock restoration projects elsewhere in the Yukon River watershed, particularly those involving instream incubation.

Takhini River Chinook Salmon Sonar Project

This project involves Chinook salmon enumeration on the Takhini River (Yukon River tributary) to monitor spawning escapement in the watershed. During 2017 and 2018, sonar enumeration of Chinook salmon was successfully completed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), Whitehorse. It is proposed that the site used by DFO be utilized again to set up and run the sonar enumeration program through the 2022 Chinook salmon migration period and to set the stage for operation of the sonar in future years. The findings of this project will help to set the stage for stock restoration in the Takhini River watershed by providing accurate estimates of spawning escapement prior to the initiation of a well designed restoration project.

Stewart River Chinook Salmon Sonar Site Feasibility

The proposed project is a sonar feasibility assessment for the mainstem Stewart River within the Traditional Territory of the First Nation of the Na’Cho Nyäk Dun (FNNND). The FNNND remains concerned about low Chinook returns to the Stewart River watershed in recent years and has a goal to initiate operation of a sonar enumeration project in the near future in order to provide an escapement count for the watershed. The Stewart River watershed does not currently have any assessment projects for Chinook despite being defined as a Yukon Chinook salmon conservation unit (CU-74) and accounting for 6-10% of the Canadian origin Chinook (based on drainage wide telemetry projects and recent genetic sampling at Eagle Sonar).
The FNNND collaborated with EDI during 2015 to determine the feasibility of operating sonar on the mainstem Stewart River including the investigation of 26 candidate sites between the McQuesten River and the confluence with the Yukon River. Much of the work done by this 2015 project is still applicable and does not need to be repeated; however, in order to ensure that sonar can adequately be deployed in the next 1-3 years, confirmation of the two high suitability sites identified during 2015 is proposed for 2021. The proposed project will involve visiting these two candidate sites to: deploy an ARIS sonar to determine image quality, collect bathymetric data, determine test fishing locations, and investigate camp and access point locations.

Pilot Station and Eagle Sonar summer season extension

The primary objective of this project is to increase the likelihood that the entire Chinook salmon run is fully estimated at both the Pilot Station and Eagle sonar projects, by beginning operations early enough to assess the front end of the run. Early project operations will improve the completeness and utility of information provided to U.S. and Canadian fisheries managers and researches tasked with endeavoring to achieve the objectives set forth in the Yukon River Salmon Agreement between the U.S. and Canada. The estimates from the extended period will be reported to fishery managers and stakeholders daily, archived in the Arctic- Yukon-Kuskokwim Database Management System (AYKDBMS), and included in the annual project report.

Pilot Station fall season extension

The primary objective of this project is to more completely assess the late portion of fall chum and coho salmon passage at the Pilot Station sonar project by extending field operations by a week. The daily estimates from the extended period will be reported to fishery managers daily, archived in the Arctic–Yukon–Kuskokwim Database Management System (AYKDBMS), and included in the annual project report.

Promoting the Chum Salmon Angling Fishery

Chinook salmon numbers in the Canadian section of the Yukon River have been low in recent years, which has precluded non-First Nation Yukoners from fishing Chinook and resulted in reductions in the First Nation fishery. While Chinook numbers are low, mainstem chum have been more than sufficient for spawning escapement (70,000 to 104,000) and supporting a harvest. The harvest of chum in the Yukon has been around 3,000 per year since 2009.
The reasons for the small harvest are varied. The chum run is much later in the season (peak in September), which means children are in school, and it can be cold (good for storing chum, hard on boats, gear, and people). Perhaps the largest barrier to the fishery is a perception that chum salmon are dog food and not good for humans. This project is designed to change that perception and show anglers how to catch them. In addition to changing the perception that chum is not for humans, anglers need to be encouraged to catch chum in the Yukon River. The angling fishery on the Yukon River has essentially been closed since 2007 (with limited opportunities until 2011) resulting in Yukoners going to Haines, Alaska to fish. This project will showcase the Chum salmon angling opportunities here on the Yukon River to get Yukoners thinking about fishing for salmon here at home.

Porcupine River Chum Harvest Guideline Community Signage

Many citizens in Old Crow and VGFN have advocated for self-regulation and voluntary restrictions with the understanding that harvest management options are best implemented with increased communication, education and outreach. The goal of this project is to improve those key factors with the installation of two signs which will be updated regularly during the Chum run. The signs will serve to communicate to the community the pre-season forecasts, in-season counts from Porcupine Sonar and Fishing Branch weir & sonar, and the Chum Harvest guideline based on the information at hand.

Na’Cho Nyäk Dun Salmon Planning Initiative

The proposed project would support the Na’Cho Nyäk Dun (NND) First Nation in developing a community-based plan for salmon management within their traditional territories, including the Stewart River watershed. Also included in this proposed plan are opportunities to engage with local conservation efforts and plans, and support for forward-thinking strategies and policies to support NND citizens in adapting to and/or mitigating change. This project will bring NND citizens together to reinvigorate, energize and collaborate on salmon management through two phases. Phase 1 will focus on information gathering and knowledge sharing, and this knowledge will be combined with a technical literature review and survey study to create a holistic image of the NND salmon culture and community from past to future. Phase 2 to be applied for in 2021 will work with the information from Phase 1 and will be instrumental in the development NND Community-Driven Salmon Management Plan.