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.
Over the past few years there has been increased concern by Yukon First Nations and other salmon users regarding the decline of sustainably harvestable salmon that reach the Yukon and the continued conservation of Yukon River salmon stocks. At the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) General Assembly in 2010 there was a resolution passed to seek funding for CYFN to host a Yukon River Salmon Summit for Yukon First Nations. There is a great and urgent desire by Yukon First Nations within the Yukon River drainage to meet, discuss, and create a strategic plan with the focus on conservation, education, and increased information sharing between First Nations, salmon users, and salmon management bodies.
Information about: the role of salmon management bodies, proposed Yukon salmon management recommendations (ie. letting the first pulse pass), involvement in salmon organizations (eg. The Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association cultural exchange and in-season conference calls), harvesting techniques (eg. implications of various mesh sizes on salmon stocks), current and proposed First Nations conservation & monitoring programs (eg. Ta’an Kwach’an Council’s water temperature monitoring program), and suggested educational initiatives (eg. proposing a youth writing contest regarding salmon conservation and to be advertised in the schools) will be presented.
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).
Chinook salmon provide for important aboriginal, subsistence, personal use, commercial, and sport fisheries throughout the entire Yukon River drainage, as summarized in the most recently published yearly management reports (Bue et al. 2011) and U.S./Canada Joint Technical Committee reports (JTC 2011). G.Sandone Consulting, LLC, in cooperation with the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada will sample spawned out, predominantly live Chinook salmon within the Little Salmon River drainage, Yukon, Canada, to estimate the age, sex, length (ASL) of the spawning population within that drainage. The Little Salmon is a tributary to the Yukon River with the confluence with the Yukon River near the village of Carmacks, Yukon.
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.
Creating a more knowledgeable public enables and engages stakeholders in discussions about environmental and resource issues. However, there is a challenge in communicating often complex scientific topics to community members with little science background in an accessible and easily understood way. This project sought to develop a science education outreach program for K-12 groups in the Alaska portion of the Yukon River. This workshop built on a previous workshop to Yukon River fishermen, covering factors that impact different life history stages of Pacific salmon and the challenges of managing a complex fishery. Future lessons would cover other topics related to fish biology, habitat ecology, current scientific research, and scientific methodology of Yukon River research projects.
There has been a recent shift from mark-recapture to sonar to estimate Canadian border escapement. Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans biologists found that the Eagle test fishery (gillnet) age composition is significantly different from that estimated from mark-recapture (fish wheel) such that the two data sets are not comparable. This finding highlights the need to 1) develop a Gold Standard for monitoring the age composition of the escapement and 2) to develop a conversion factor such that past and future age data are consistent and comparable through time. These data have implications for the development of brood tables and run size projections.
There are now three years of paired data when both test fishery and fish wheel are operated. The development of a conversion factor and the determination of appropriate sampling methods would be improved with additional years of paired data. This project would allow the comparison of historically operated fish wheel sampling data with sonar test fishing data and other concurrent sampling programs to help determine the relationship between sample composition and run composition. This will also help determine which sampling programs will be most useful in characterizing the ASL and genetic composition of Canadian-origin fish. Due to biases associated with nets, fishwheels, and other sample methods, its desirable to compare test fishery (gillnet) data collected at Eagle with fishwheels, carcass sampling and weir data. It is anticipated that this program will be used to work out potential sources of gear bias as well as assist with the finalization of previous run reconstruction tables which are based on ASL data to make the data set consistent through time. This program will also allow the comparison of ASL composition of past runs to the run composition with the mesh size restrictions.
Yukon Fish and Game Association (YF&G) will mark all of the Whitehorse Rapids Fish Hatchery juvenile Chinook to be released in the spring. This tagging project is completed to identify hatchery and wild Chinook salmon in subsequent broodstock collection, escapement composition to the fishway and other annual identification activities including marine and freshwater sampling projects. Fry will be adipose fin clipped and tagged with coded wire tags. The fry will be released into the Upper Yukon River drainage above the Whitehorse Rapids Dam in locations specified in the transplant license approved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The fry releases will involve the helicopter transport of the fry destined for Michie Creek and the M’Clintock River and boat or helicopter transport of fry released in the mainstem Yukon River. YF&G will prepare a report summarizing the project. This will maintain a long standing effort to provide a means to identify hatchery origin Chinook salmon in the Yukon River drainage.