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.
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in (TH) citizens are physically, culturally and spiritually connected to the Yukon River salmon fishery. This fishery has been a major contributor to the traditional economy since time immemorial and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, or people of the river, have historically focused salmon harvest at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers, or Tr’ochëk. As a primary stakeholder in subsistence and commercial salmon fisheries, TH has a vested interest in the health of salmon stocks found within our Traditional Territory. Klondike River Chinook salmon have faced declining populations for a number of decades and it’s because of this decline that we have been involved with, and have supported salmon restoration projects in our Traditional Territory.
The proposed project provides an indicator of Chinook escapement which is important for a number of reasons. With TH becoming more actively involved in restoration, the long-term operation of this sonar is desirable for tracking changes in abundance in the future. The Klondike stock is also known to migrate relatively early at the mouth of the river and therefore, this makes them more vulnerable to harvest as many of the spawners move through the lower river prior to managers having strong confidence in escapement numbers.
This project aims to build from work conducted in 2010 and 2011 supported by the R&E Fund. We plan to continue monitoring the temperature of 10 sites established in 2011 and will add six new sites in 2012. At each monitoring site, data loggers will be installed and calibrated following a standardized protocol (see Dunham et al. 2005; von Finster 2010). Each site will have two HOBO Pro v2 water temperature data loggers and two iButtons deployed in order to assure redundancy of equipment and protect against data loss. We will also evaluate the difference between logger types for potential cost savings in long term monitoring. Each data logger will be programmed to record water temperature hourly (on the hour), 24 hours per day, seven days per week, from the time of deployment until retrieval. Data loggers will be in place in most sites from May until September, but may be removed earlier if projects end for the season. All data will be entered into the publicly accessible database Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) constructed in 2010, with the potential to use any observed temperature data in future analyses for Yukon salmon management.
Water temperature has been shown to influence adult spawning success, egg survival, and post-hatchling developmental processes (Geist et al. 2006). Because of temperature’s importance to salmon survival and development coupled with effects of climate change, there is a need to develop a standardized water temperature monitoring program throughout the Yukon River Basin region. Although water temperature is already measured for several escapement monitoring sites through Alaska and the Yukon Territory, much of the available temperature data is not comparable statistically due to inconsistent sampling protocols (e.g. time series do not overlap, differing equipment).
Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association, in cooperation with Asacarsarmiut Tribal Council (ATC) and ADF&G will conduct a Chinook salmon test fishery project along the north bank of the Yukon River near the village of Mountain Village, Alaska. This project (MVTF) was successfully conducted during the 2010 (Sandone 2011) and 2011(Sandone in prep) seasons. This project is strategically located between two ADF&G assessment projects that are separated by over 100 river miles and 3 Chinook salmon travel days. Data from this project, in conjunction with the Lower Yukon Test Fish (LYTF) catch per unit effort (CPUE) information and the Pilot Station sonar counts attributed to Chinook salmon, will allow a comparative and also a more accurate assessment of the inseason Chinook salmon run strength and run timing. This project will also provide additional insight into the expected Chinook salmon run strength at the Pilot Station sonar site and possibly be the only reliable assessment project in the lower river when high water, turbidity, and high debris load compromises the LYTF and sonar project efforts. Age, sex, size information will provide insight into the characteristics of the run and the Lower River harvests and to a lesser extent, the run. A genetic tissue sample, collected from all Chinook salmon captured, may aid in determination of the stock-specific nature of the run. All fish retained will be distributed to village residents for subsistence purposes.
The goal of this program is to improve public awareness of fishing conditions and to foster community support for the management of Yukon River salmon. This is done on a weekly basis through the hosting of in-season salmon management teleconferences during the fishing season. The program has run consistently for the past 12 years, funded by the Yukon River Panel and the Fisheries Resource Monitoring Program. Participants on the call include Yukon River fishermen, community harvest surveyors, Tribal councils, First Nations, policy makers, non-governmental organizations and state and federal resource managers. The content of the call includes updates and reports from villages on fishing activities and environmental conditions as well as management reports on their fisheries assessments and strategies. Open discussion and question and answer periods take place following the reports. The calls are focused on in-season management and there are numerous questions posed from the fishermen to the managers. In recent years, with low Chinook salmon runs, it is critical to have this open dialogue that enables management to share weekly data on run counts, timing, gear restrictions etc. and for managers to hear from fishermen on their reports of what they are harvesting and seeing in the river. Management is complex and new fishing gear and many openings and closings in the different fishing districts have become common. This dialogue helps build community support because it is an open forum where the public gets to interact directly with resource managers and hear rationale for management decision-making. While not everyone agrees on fisheries management strategies this open forum helps to build an open dialogue and working relationship. It is also a place for fishermen to share their concerns directly with managers and they can ask for changes in fishing gear or hours of time allowed to fish. Outcomes from this program have included the development of a cadre of people from the Yukon River that communicate on a weekly basis about the Yukon River salmon runs, in-season, many of which are different than those that participate in other annual forums. The calls are a reliable, affordable and effective in-season communication that should continue in order to offer an opportunity for people from the Yukon River to participate in fisheries management discussions about the conservative management actions taking place in recent years. People who participate on the call are local leaders in various ways and they share the information on the calls with other community members. They also share their community concerns on the call thus actings as community liaisons during the fishing season. This is extremely helpful as the management agencies are only based in two locations during the fishing season and have limited time and ability to travel out to each and every community to meet firsthand with fishing families.
A genetics-based analysis can be used to identify to what river system, drainage, or sub-drainage a salmon is returning, long before the salmon actually reaches its spawning grounds. This type of analysis is generally referred to as genetic stock identification (GSI) and is used in both research and management. In the Yukon River, it is used to identify the stock of origin of salmon caught in commercial, subsistence, and test fisheries (e.g., Pilot Station or Eagle Sonar). This information on stock composition is used by fisheries managers to make in-season decisions and to reconstruct the run at the end of the season. It can also be used to understand where a juvenile salmon is from; this is particularly useful given that many juvenile salmon do not rear in their natal streams.
All of this analysis and its resultant information hinges on having a representative genetic baseline. This project aims to ensure that the genetic baseline used by researchers and managers is representative of Canadian-origin salmon. A good portion of the genetic baseline already exists thanks to the work on this project that has already taken place. The aim of this project is to gather genetic baseline samples from those areas and stocks that are currently un-represented or under-represented and, in this way, improve the accuracy of all the estimates developed using GSI. Canadian sampling efforts are focused on filling the baseline gaps by collecting tissues from poorly represented Canadian tributaries.
Our goal is the development and maintenance of community capacity in the Dawson City region to protect, maintain and restore salmon stocks and habitats. Each year, two local high school students who have not participated in the project in past years are hired as Student Stewards. They work under the field supervision of an experienced elder and the technical guidance of a retired DFO biologist, and are provided with a wide range of hands-on training through participation in a variety of salmon and salmon habitat management and research activities. Proposed activities include the monitoring of 0+ Chinook salmon growth and habitat utilisation, ground water fed rearing channel habitat monitoring, riparian restoration principles, and ground truthing of placer maps. Depending on environmental conditions, 0+ Chinook fry salvage and access restoration may take place, and we may partner with DFO as we have in the past to conduct genetic analysis on some 0+ Chinook. The context of any activities undertaken will be explained to the Student Stewards so that they are given an opportunity not only to understand what they are doing, but why they are doing it.
At the end of the funded field work component of the project, the Student Stewards will demonstrate their acquired skills and knowledge to children and community members in a Public Involvement Day. Opportunities will be sought to increase the exposure of the project through the local media and in presentations to the public.
Tanks for all the fish
A lot more Chinook salmon will soon be raised at the McIntyre Creek Salmon Incubation Facility. The Whitehorse hatchery has seen $60,000 in upgrades as well as a new tank design which more closely mimics nature. Philippe Morin took a tour.More: www.cbc.ca/1.3633022
Posted by CBC Yukon on Monday, June 13, 2016
Video Source: CBC
The McIntyre Creek Salmon Incubation Project (MCSIP) is a groundwater sourced, gravity-fed salmon incubation facility capable of rearing fish from egg-take through to tagged and release-ready stage. The facility has functioned for nearly 20 years, collecting salmon broodstock from the wild, fertilizating and incubating eggs, rearing and feeding juveniles, adipose fin clipping and inserting coded-wire tags (CWTs) in preparation for release into the wild. In previous years MCSIP has focused on enhancement and fostering of stewardship through the rearing and release of Yukon River Chinook salmon juveniles back into natal streams, as well as stock restoration of depopulated streams undergoing stock restoration. For example, Whitehorse Rapids Fishway eggs have primarily been used to re-stock Fox Creek as part of Ta’an Kwäch’än First Nation’s (TKFN) Fox Creek Salmon Stock Restoration Project. MCSIP provides facilities for the initial incubation of small numbers of other salmon eggs which are destined for classroom incubation projects as part of the Stream to Sea Program, and has served as a test site to refine the use of heath stack incubators and thermal marking units, which have been developed at the site.
MCSIP was initially founded as a stewardship and enhancement project, and continues to be a significant resource for Yukon River salmon. MCSIP focuses on two main target groups within the larger community; first nations interested in stock restoration of depopulated chinook salmon streams (e.g. TKFN), and students. Both elementary and Yukon College students use MCSIP as part of their educational experience. Renewable Resources Management 134: Introduction to Salmon Hatcheries and Related Fisheries Practices is a course developed with and for MCSIP. Yukon College students also provide paid labor and management of the day-to-day operation of the hatchery during the school year, providing even more practical training and responsibility. This hands-on experience has proven very valuable for student’s ongoing education and work careers.
The project goal is to conduct public outreach to an adult audience of active Yukon River fishers to build a more aware public constituency that is motivated to maintain and protect salmon stocks of Canadian origin. Over the past ten years the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association (YRDFA) has hosted a one-day meeting to discuss pre-season planning for the management of declining Canadian origin Chinook salmon, fall chum and other important issues related to the upcoming fishing season. Meeting attendees include Tribal Council representatives, state and federal fisheries management agencies and other Yukon River fishery stakeholders. The meetings are a necessary annual event convening stakeholders, representing a majority of Yukon River fishing communities along the Alaskan portion of the Yukon River, with Alaskan agency fishery managers to discuss how to protect Canadian origin Chinook and fall chum salmon and meet other management goals.
This project has demonstrated that outreach through face-to-face meetings with the Yukon River public has led to increased community partnership with fisheries managers in their management efforts to conserve Canadian origin Chinook salmon.
This project, which has been running at this site since 2005 and funded by the Restoration and Enhancement Fund since 2011, operates a sonar station on the Big Salmon River using a long range dual frequency identification sonar (DIDSON) to enumerate the Chinook salmon escapement each year, and conducts spawning ground sampling to obtain biological information on the stock. The goal of the project is to provide a long term dataset for inter-annual stock strength, run timing, ASL composition, and annual escapement estimates (for the Big Salmon and the Yukon Rivers) in addition to verifying the accuracy of the genetic proportions from Eagle.
The program works closely with the Juvenile Chinook Out-migrant Assessment Study and the Sonar Program in Eagle, Alaska.