Category: 2013

2013 Fund Project

Lower Yukon River Subsistence Chinook Salmon Harvest ASL & Stock Composition

The Alaska subsistence harvest of Yukon River Chinook salmon averages about 50,000 fish per year, of which about 30% is from Districts 1 and 2. Stock composition of this component of the run is unique compared to other components because of differences in harvest timing, location, and gear, and there is a tendency towards high occurrence of Canadian origin fish. Our goal, in collaboration with Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), is to collect information about the composition of this component of the run to enable estimates of total run composition by stock, stock-specific exploitation, and spawner-recruit analysis, among other uses.

The objective specific to this proposal is to collect representative genetics stock identification (GSI) information, coupled with age, sex, length (ASL) data, from the Chinook salmon subsistence harvest in Districts 1 and 2 in support of estimating the 2013 harvest composition. Deliverables will be raw data and samples provided to ADF&G to enable them, independent of this project, to estimate ASL and stock composition of the subsistence Chinook salmon harvests from District 1 and 2. The relevance of the resulting database is that it contributes to initiatives aimed at reconstructing the ASL and stock composition of the total Yukon River Chinook salmon run, and to understanding the effects of management actions and fishing techniques on harvest composition.


Whitehorse Rapids Hatchery Coded Wire Tagging and Recovery

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.


Ta’an Kwäch’än Council (TKC) Community Stewardship Program

The goal of our program is to build TKC member and staff capacity with regards to salmon related technical work, while implementing/maintaining several TKC salmon initiatives. Our proposal will consist of hiring one Steward (technician) who will conduct a variety of monitoring and assessment activities related to Chinook salmon stocks and habitat in the TKC Traditional Territory along with the Fish and Wildlife Steward.

The restoration of Chinook salmon to Fox Creek, apart from the obvious merits of this project, raises the profile of First Nation and citizen involvement in salmon restoration and management. Coupled with public outreach projects such as the involvement of the Stewards with Summer Culture Camp, and Family Fish Camp (CRE-128-13) will provide opportunity to the proposed activity of collecting ASL data from TKC citizens, this project works to build trust and communication between the TKC government and its citizens, and encourages citizen participation in Chinook salmon management initiatives, including in-season harvest estimates.

The data collected through the TKC Community Stewardship Program is publically accessible and may contribute to future management decisions. Furthermore, as the project develops the type and quality of data collected continues to increase and improve. TKC now owns a significant amount of required sampling equipment and is involved in a number of ecological assessment and monitoring projects throughout the Traditional Territory.


Yukon River International Salmon Summit (Salmon Know No Borders)

The goal of this project is to increase the capacity of users and non-users of the salmon resource in communities along the entire Yukon River drainage to maintain and protect salmon stocks and their habitat. This will be achieved through creating, between user and non-user groups, a greater understanding of one another, of key issues, and of salmon management. The objective is to hold an unprecedented meeting of affected Alaskan Tribes and inter-tribal groups, affected Yukon First Nations, stakeholder groups, processors and management agencies from across the drainage, including ADF&G, USFWS, and DFO. While Yukon River Panel meetings have provided opportunities for these groups to meet in the past, these opportunities have only been done on a partial or limited scale. This proposal is distinguished by the fact that the project will involve all available stakeholder groups.

In essence, this project aims to enhance cross-border knowledge and understanding amongst all organizations, communities and management agencies involved in Yukon River fisheries. As such, the agenda is crafted to present management structures, local and regional harvests, key concerns, and current approaches to addressing poor Chinook salmon returns.

Deliverables will include presentations and any plans developed at the meeting. The project will also result in increased understanding, and stronger relationships for future work and cooperation. Further, a professionally developed and designed report will be sent to every invited organization.


Porcupine River Chum Salmon Telemetry

The Fishing Branch River weir has been used for numerous years to document the annual escapement of Porcupine River chum; however, weir operations were discontinued after 2012, in favor of a sonar station near Old Crow. To compare future run estimates from the Porcupine River sonar program to historical counts from the Fishing Branch River weir, a thorough understanding of the destination of chum salmon passing Old Crow is required. The weir and sonar programs operated concurrently in 2011 and 2012; chum salmon were floy tagged at the sonar site and a portion of the tags were recovered at the weir, providing rough estimates of the proportion of Porcupine River chum salmon passing the Fishing Branch weir location. In 2013, EDI Environmental Dynamics Inc. (EDI) radio tagged 94 chum salmon at the sonar site and tracked them to spawning destinations throughout the upper Porcupine River. The results of this program indicate that approximately 74% of tagged chum salmon spawned upstream of the former weir site in 2013. A second year of radio tagging will provide strong confidence in the relationship between weir and sonar counts, which has been under development since 2011. The proposed project involves conducting a second year of radio telemetry for chum salmon in the Canadian portion of the Porcupine River watershed. Fish will be tagged at the Porcupine River sonar location and tracked to tributaries in the Porcupine River, upstream of the sonar site. The knowledge of current spawning locations gained from the 2013 program will be used to focus the surveys on known chum salmon spawning habitats, while also adding more previously undocumented tributaries that could support spawning chum salmon.


Whitehorse Rapids Fishway Stewardship

This project provides a strong stewardship opportunity for its young employees and the various visitors to the Fishway. The stewardship portion of this project targets people of all ages who visit the fish ladder, but particular focus is on its employees, including local high school and university students. These employees develop a good understanding of the salmon life cycle, management and habitat as they monitor information from DFO and ADF&G to follow the passage of the salmon up the river, and work with hatchery staff to collect broodstock, look after salmon fry aquaria in the interpretive centre, communicate this information to fishway visitors daily and conduct stream walks at Wolf Creek to monitor adult returns. Fishway employees also learn about sampling techniques and salmon husbandry through assisting the Hatchery manager with egg takes and ASL sampling. The employees communicate their knowledge to a broad range of visitors to the ladder, including the hosted Open House in August during the primary run time, which fosters an appreciation for salmon and support for the management of the salmon and their habitat. Public recognition of the importance of this interpretation venue to the tourism sector of the Yukon also enhances the local support for stewardship of Yukon River salmon. Through this project the various visitors learn about the valuable resource that is present in the Yukon River drainage and the employees through their work experience learn valuable skills that can help them pursue a career in fish and wildlife interests.

Yukon River In-Season Salmon Management Teleconferences

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.



Development of a Genetic Baseline for Canadian-origin Yukon River Chinook and Chum Salmon

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.

Temperature Monitoring of Yukon River Chinook Salmon Spawning and Migration Habitats in Canada

After a returning salmon leaves the marine environment, water temperatures largely determine its ability to migrate and spawn successfully. The goal of this project is to develop a publicly accessible baseline of the thermal regimes of Yukon River Chinook Salmon spawning and migration habitats in Canada.

The Yukon River Canadian Water Temperature Monitoring Network (the Network) was initiated during the 2011 – 2012 ADF&G water temperature project, and is continued by a Canadian Consultant to the present. The Network currently comprises 15 Stations, and data collection is conducted in watercourses utilized by Chinook Salmon for adult migration and spawning, as well as juvenile incubation, rearing, overwintering and downstream migration. Design of the Network includes both geographical and temporal components. Data from temperature data loggers at each station are downloaded, checked and used to generate mean, minimum and maximum daily temperatures, and this data set is uploaded to

The primary rationale for the project continuing is that it extends the temporal length of the baseline. This allows more complete consideration of the inter-annual range of temperatures that may be expected, and strengthens the baseline for future salmon fishery and habitat managers to determine temperature trends and effects thereof. The secondary rationale is the public nature of the project, with data being widely and freely distributed. This enables access to the data by agency and non-agency persons, and reduces the risk that data – and the investment in collecting it – will be lost due to personnel changes, government reorganizations or simple neglect.


Ta’an Kwäch’än Council Fox Creek Salmon Restoration Project

Fox Creek is a lake-headed tributary to Lake Laberge and the Yukon River, located approximately 50 km north of Whitehorse. It lies within the traditional territory of Ta’an Kwäch’än Council (TKC) and historically supported a Chinook salmon fishery; however, since the late 1950’s this stock has been extirpated. Habitat changes (forest fire/beavers and/or fishing (easy access) to Fox Creek may have played a role in decline of this stock. Ta’an Kwäch’än Council’s goal for the Fox Creek Salmon Chinook Salmon Restoration Program is to re-establish a self-sustaining population of Chinook with sufficient spawners to have a high probability of long-term persistence in the face of variability in survival due to natural changes in the environment. TKC aims to ensure that a viable natural stock is abundant enough to contribute to a sustainable harvest for current and future generations as part of their natural culture and heritage.
From 2007 to 2015 TKC assessed, developed and implemented Phase I of this program and Year 8 (2015) marked the end of that phase. The Phase I Chinook Salmon Stock Restoration Plan for Fox Creek (CRE-52N-07) suggested restoration of this extirpated stock be conducted over 2 Chinook salmon life cycles.
The latter part of Phase I saw the return of Chinook salmon to Fox Creek and the stock is showing signs of recovery. Phase II will use knowledge gained in Phase I to guide an implementation and monitoring approach to establish a viable, naturally self-sustaining Chinook salmon population that will contribute to a sustainable harvest for TKC citizens.