Significant declines in Canadian-origin Yukon River Chinook salmon over the past 15 years have prompted recent focused discussions exploring stock restoration as a means to support Canadian basin-wide Chinook salmon recovery.
A key salmon restoration element includes the use of conservation hatchery technology to improve survival in the early life history stages (egg to fry/smolt) to potentially speed recovery efforts. Conservation hatcheries release artificially propagated fish into natural spawning and rearing habitat; as adults, these fish will return to spawn naturally to contribute to the wild population.
In anticipation of increasing interest in Canadian-origin Yukon River Chinook salmon stock restoration projects, this project proposes to assess existing operations and capacity of local hatchery and incubation facilities and to explore potential regional hatchery coordination to better support near-term stock restoration projects within the territory.
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.
This project is designed to test the feasibility of analyzing stock composition of the commercial harvest at the mouth of the Yukon River drainage. Currently genetic sampling at Pilot Station sonar occurs after the District Y-1 fishery, three days into the run. Inseason genetic analyses take an additional three days, which means stock composition estimates are available a minimum of six days after the fish have passed through the sample location. Additionally it is important to determine if the commercial fishery harvests are similar in stock composition as those produced at Pilot Station sonar project. Managers must allow a target number of Canadian-origin chum salmon to pass the international border due to a bilateral international agreement to meet management objectives. Canadian-origin chum salmon contributions range from 2% to 46% throughout the run that consists of four to six pulses annually. Knowing the stock composition in the commercial harvest would result in more informed management decisions concerning Canadian-origin chum salmon. If there is no difference between stock compositions in the lower river fisheries and Pilot Station, then effort could be put into more timely analysis in either sampling location. As the majority of the commercial fishery occurs in the lower commercial districts, collecting and analyzing samples earlier in the run would improve inseason management. This project will analyze fall chum salmon genetic samples from District Y-1 commercial fishing periods during the transition from summer to fall chum salmon in mid-July when a mix of the two are being harvested. In addition, samples will be collected from the largest two pulses in the remainder of the run when the largest commercial harvests may occur. Stock compositions will be estimated using the available chum salmon baseline of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). This is a feasibility study. All samples will be analyzed post-season and the inseason utility of these analyses will be evaluated.
The goal of this project will be to determine Chinook salmon spawning success from hatchery juveniles out-planted in the mainstem of the Yukon River. Success will be investigated by surveying the study area for emergent fry (0+) in early spring using electro-fishing instrumentation. Spawning success assessment will be complemented by conducting adult spawning surveys in August. The deliverable will be a report detailing the work conducted and an opinion on the success/value of outplanting chinook fry into this section of the Yukon River and if the practice should be continued or other options considered. As this investigation will be conducted in the vicinity of another outplant location (i.e. Wolf Creek) information relevant to the understanding of this location will be obtained although the focus will be on the mainstem.
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.
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.
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 yukonwatertemperatures.info.
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.