Category: 2016

2016 Fund Project

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.


Rock River Chinook and Chum Habitat Assessment and Restoration Investigation

Chinook and chum salmon stocks in the Porcupine River watershed comprise an important subsistence fishery for the community of Old Crow and the Vuntut Gwitch’in Government (VGG). The management, monitoring and restoration of these stocks is of primary importance to local fisheries managers and previous R&E projects have aimed to better understand these stocks and to provide in-season estimates of escapement. In particular, the 2015 Chinook and 2013-2015 chum telemetry projects have provided a great deal of information regarding the spawning distribution of these species in the Canadian portion of the Porcupine River watershed, and have determined that the Rock River is a spawning area for both Chinook and chum salmon. The headwaters of the Rock River are located to the east of the Dempster Highway (north of Eagle Plains) and the stream flows into the Bell River approximately 75 km to the northwest of the highway. During 2015 radio tag tracking flights, 5 radio-tagged Chinook were found in the Rock River between the Bell River and a point 15 km downstream of the highway. This represents a notable portion of the applied radio tags (14%), once tag dropouts, mortalities and recaptures in the fishery are accounted for. To provide perspective, other well documented Chinook spawning areas such as the Miner and Fishing Branch rivers each had 13 and 4 tags, respectively. The analysis of the 2016 telemetry data is ongoing; however, there was a notable number of tags (4 or more) relocated in the Rock River, which is similar to the number of tags relocated in well documented spawning areas such as the lower Fishing Branch, Miner and Whitestone rivers.

This project investigates the potential for Chinook and/or chum restoration projects in the watershed. This includes the identification of limitations to productivity and options for stock or habitat restoration efforts. Aerial counts of both Chinook and chum salmon during the respective spawning periods will be conducted, and juvenile Chinook will be sampled during the summer months. During the juvenile sampling, baseline habitat information for Chinook and chum (water temperature, habitat quality, etc.) will also be collected. A secondary goal of the project is to collect baseline genetic information for both Chinook and chum salmon in the watershed to aid in determining if the Rock River population is genetically distinct from other spawning populations in the Canadian portion of the Porcupine River watershed. These samples can then be pooled with genetic samples collected for this watershed in previous years.

Porcupine Drainage Engagement: Gathering, Mapping and Integrating Local and Traditional Knowledge (LTK) for Community-based Stock Restoration Planning

The chum salmon (Onchorynchus keta) that migrate up the Porcupine River system are a culturally important food source for the Vuntut Gwitch’in First Nation (VGFN). The Fishing Branch River, located in the Canadian section of the Porcupine, is part of the VGFN’s traditional territory and is where most of the fall chum salmon originate. Serious conservation concerns for this run were first raised in the late 1990’s and have continued as indicated by the downward trend seen at the Fishing Branch Weir.
This project proposes to organize a two-day LTK gathering workshop in Old Crow in April/May, 2016. This will involve the communities of Old Crow (Yukon) and Fort Yukon (Alaska), agencies and other stakeholders concerned with the Fall Chum run (and to some extent Chinook salmon) in the Porcupine drainage. As a means to enhance the scientific research in regards to escapement, habitat, productivity, hydrology, geology, predation, and climate change the workshop will focus on addressing those issues. Half a day will be directed towards strategizing community based initiatives for stock restoration.
The Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee (YSSC) has designed and developed a web-based mapping platform that can populate a Yukon River drainage-wide map with quantitative and qualitative data.  This mapping platform serves as a tool to document scientific and technical data, community engagement, LTK and stock restoration (SR) initiatives. Relevant and appropriate information gathered from the workshop will be placed on the mapping platform for the public and agencies to utilize for the purpose of information sharing and management planning.

Yukon River North Mainstem Stewardship

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.


Yukon River Mid-Mainstem Salmon Assessment Program

The goal of this project is to quantify distribution of juvenile and adult Chinook salmon in the Yukon River mid-mainstem, in areas of limited knowledge, to allow for greater protection and to identify potential spawning and rearing habitat restoration sites. Specifically, the objectives are to 1) conduct habitat assessments to characterize aquatic health and habitat, and to determine the extent of juvenile Chinook distribution, and 2) determine the extent of spawner distribution within tributaries to the Little Salmon River, Nordenskiold River and Big Creek. The data will also be used to update the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation (LSCFN) salmon database, created by the LSCFN Salmon Knowledge Study (CRE-141N-10).

Genetic Stock Identification of Pilot Station Chinook Salmon

To effectively manage Yukon River Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) salmon stocks originating from Canada, fishery managers require an understanding of the stock composition of the run as it enters the river. Canadian-origin Chinook salmon migrate through approximately 1,200 miles of fisheries in the Alaska portion of the drainage. An estimate of the Canadian-origin Chinook salmon run strength and migration timing is vital to ensuring that appropriate management actions are taken to meet border escapement objectives. This project helps in the management of Yukon River Chinook salmon by providing estimates of stock composition of Chinook salmon migrating past the mainstem sonar project near Pilot Station in the lower portion of the Yukon River. The ADF&G Gene Conservation Laboratory (GCL) creates in-season stock composition estimates by genotyping samples from the sonar project test fishery, and using the resulting genotypes to perform mixed stock analysis (MSA). Of particular importance to fishery managers is identification of the Canadian-origin component of the Chinook salmon run.

Deliverables from this project will include in-season analyses of the Canadian-origin component of Chinook salmon passage, which will be disseminated to key fishery research and management staff, from Federal and State agencies, in both the U.S. and Canada. The results will be published in department News Releases in-season, the Yukon River Panel United States/Canada Joint Technical Committee’s (JTC) annual report, and in a final report to the Yukon River Panel, including relevant comparisons to historical data and observed trends.

Enhancing the Information Value of CWTs Applied to Canadian-origin Chinook Salmon

All Chinook salmon raised in the Whitehorse Rapids Fish Hatchery are tagged with a coded wire tag before they are released. On average, this is about 150,000 juvenile fish per year. Though the coded wire tag itself is very small, these fish can be identified by their clipped adipose fin; facilitating submission of its head to agencies such that the coded wire tag can be read and the fish can be identified.
The application of coded wire tags to these fish has been going on since the early 1980s and represents a rich and consistent source of data to understand movement, survival, and the proportion of a stock that is caught in fisheries. However, to get robust estimates of these important variables, recoveries of tagged fish need to be co-ordinated, encouraged and analyzed.
The purpose of this project is to identify, collate, and report on all historic recoveries of coded wire tags from Canadian-origin Yukon River Chinook salmon. It will also have an outreach component, to increase the submission of coded wire tags that are recovered in fisheries in the Yukon and Alaska so that more information can be obtained from the tags.