Category: 2019

2019 Fund Project

Yukon River Panel R&E Fund Achievements & Successes – 1997 to 2017

Since 1997, the Restoration and Enhancement (R&E) Fund has supported over 500 programs, projects, and initiatives intended to advance the Fund’s objectives and goals. Given this long history, and absence of analysis or review to date, there is a strong public and stakeholder interest in the R&E Fund’s progress toward achieving its goals as well as the opportunity to provide recommendations to enhance the R&E Fund’s overall effectiveness. Based on results of the analysis there may also be an opportunity to develop tools to track R&E Fund performance in meeting its stated purpose into the future.

Salmon Know No Borders – Communications Campaign

This campaign will be directed by the Yukon River Panel Communications Committee (YRP-CC) (includes representatives from US and Canada) and facilitated through the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association and Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee and a series of professional contractors, including ESSA Technologies who has experience with this type of work in Alaska and The Yukon. The YRP-CC proposes to embark on a two-year communications campaign focused on a series of journalistic style short videos on the ecology, cultural importance, and management of Yukon River salmon. These video products would be shareable on multiple websites and social media platforms, including those of the Yukon River Panel and the International Year Of the Salmon. The videos would be accompanied by supporting communications and outreach products targeting alternative communication channels, which might include radio stories, print posters and brochures, and interactive games that could be deployed in classrooms and at community events. Both the videos and other products will be developed with a strong focus on plain-language narrative storytelling emphasizing personal stories and accompanied by powerful visuals leveraging photographs and video shot within the Yukon River region to better anchor these narratives to specific places.

Southern Lakes Community-Based Salmon Planning

The Southern Lakes Yukon encompasses a landmass of approximately 25,000 square kilometers including some of the largest rivers and lakes within the Yukon Territory. This landmass is made up of the traditional territories of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN), Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) and the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council (TKC). Salmon have been a part of this landscape, the people and the culture for millennia. These traditional territories are also located in the proximity to the large urban centre of Whitehorse. Much of this traditional territory remains effective habitat for a full range of northern boreal species and ecosystems, including salmon.

While there is increasing competition for natural resources, habitat loss, and a need for pursuing the wage economy, there is an important cultural connection to salmon that is remembered and held by the Elders. There are few active fish camps, and few people fishing, however, the culture, ceremony and commitment to salmon is strong and woven into the people, cultures within these three First Nations.

There has always been salmon stewardship, participation in management, and a cultural commitment to salmon within these traditional territories. This project will bring together the KDFN and the C/TFN to reinvigorate, energize and collaborate on the phase 1 of salmon related: management, research, traditional knowledge acquisition, culture and ceremony, and land use mapping and identification of cultural and natural values associated with a conservation area design (CAD). Phase 2 to be applied for in 2020 will work with the information from phase 1 and will be instrumental in the development of a community-based Southern Lakes Salmon Management Plan and further refine the CAD for the focal species, salmon.

Fishing Branch River Chum Instream Egg Incubation Trial

During 2019, the Vuntut Gwitch’in Government (VGG) is proposing to build upon the results of a four year project which aims to better understand chum salmon spawning habitat in the Fishing Branch River and identify potential restoration projects for the watershed. A key finding of this habitat assessment work is that a portion of the Fishing Branch River becomes dewatered during the winter months resulting in complete egg mortality for chum which spawn in this area. The extent of this seasonally dewatered area varies from year to year and increases in length over the course of the winter and early spring. In some years, as many as 20% of the total number of redds upstream of the enumeration weir become dewatered. With this information in mind, the primary objective of the 2019 project is to remove spawning female chum salmon from the seasonally dewatered area, conduct an onsite egg take/fertilization and plant the fertilized eggs elsewhere in the river in spawning areas which do not become dewatered. The results of the 2019 work work will provide information on the feasibility of employing instream egg incubation as a method of helping to restore the chum spawning stock in the Fishing Branch River.

The proposed 2020 instream egg incubation project would be a continuation of the first year of the project (2019) and would also collect additional information to inform the restoration of chum stocks in the Fishing Branch River. Also included in the 2020 project is an assessment into the feasibility of constructing and operation of an exclusion fence to exclude spawning chum from entering a portion of the river which becomes temporarily dewatered during the late winter.

Application of Mixed-Stock Analysis for Yukon River Chum Salmon

This proposal is a continuation of a project that has provided in-season stock composition estimates of chum salmon to fishery managers within 24 to 48 hours of receiving samples from the Pilot Station sonar test fishery since 2004. The products of the sonar and stock composition estimates provide stock abundance estimates in the lower river, which facilitates management of the fishery and run to meet passage of chum salmon into Canada.

The disparate strength of individual stocks within and among years makes it clear that in-season stock return data assists management to meet escapement. It provides a real-time tool that allows for informed decisions on regulating fisheries to meet escapement, whereas terminal escapement projects provide a post-season report on whether management decisions were successful. In this project, we will provide estimates of stock compositions for chum salmon stock groups to continue to facilitate Yukon River chum salmon management. Deliverables will include in-season stock composition estimates of the component of pulses of chum salmon that originate from Canada, which will be distributed by email fishery biologists and managers in both the U.S. and Canada. Furthermore, the estimates will be reported in the Yukon River Panel United States/Canada Joint Technical Committee’s (JTC) annual report and in a final report to the Yukon River Panel.

Yukon River Chinook Genetic Baseline Improvements

A baseline is a tool used in genetic mixed stock analysis (MSA) to reference the genetic composition of many populations. In MSA, stock of origin is estimated by comparing the genetics of a sample to the known genetic compositions of a baseline to determine which population the sample is most likely to have originated from. The current baseline used for Yukon River Chinook salmon MSA was last updated in 2014 and contains the genetic composition of 36 populations at 41 genetic positions (single nucleotide polymorphisms, SNPs). While this baseline has proven successful at determining stock-compositions at the country of origin (U.S. vs Canada) level of resolution, it has proven difficult to report to more specific regions while still meeting required guidelines for reporting (JTC, 1997). Here, we propose methods to increase the number of populations in the Yukon River Chinook salmon baseline from 36 to 48 and the number of markers from 41 to 299 in order to provide more specific reporting groups to all Yukon River Chinook salmon projects utilizing MSA.

Upper Teslin River Watershed Chinook Radio Telemetry

For 2019, the project is planned to incorporate knowledge gained during 2018 to achieve the goal of obtaining a comprehensive understanding of Chinook spawning distribution in the upper portion of the Teslin River watershed. This will be accomplished through the following: increasing the number of tags to be applied, focusing the tag application on the early portion of the run, and increase the crew size to four individuals to allow for tag application to be completed 24 hours a day. Understanding of the extent and relative importance of tributaries used for spawning will guide monitoring efforts and future restoration activities to places where they are appropriate and will have the greatest potential for contributing to the restoration of Chinook salmon stocks. The new radio telemetry data will be combined with the existing data to strengthen the knowledge of Chinook spawning distributions and will make the data more relevant by applying tags throughout the run.

Klondike River Chinook Salmon Sonar Project

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.


Teslin Tlingit Salmon Steward

This project will take the form of a work experience program intended to offer a Teslin Tlingit youth the opportunity to explore a variety of fisheries-related work, building skills and experience in this field in the role of Salmon Steward. This position will, in turn, build the long-term capacity of Teslin Tlingit Council (TTC) to carry out projects and programs that promote salmon restoration, conservation, communication, and education.
The TTC Salmon Steward will be supported by experienced TTC staff technicians and managers and work with these staff, consultants, and TTC summer students over the course of one year. The range of work experiences that will be provided to the TTC Salmon Steward will be broad, and includes exposure to and participation in Chinook salmon management planning, meetings, and implementation, technical skills in restoration and monitoring, and educational and communication material development.  The creation of this position supports the success of other TTC projects (Deadman Creek Chinook Restoration and Upper Teslin Watershed Chinook Telemetry projects) by ensuring that the additional field-based capacity that these require is secured for the duration of the projects.

Tay River Chinook Access Investigation

The Tay River is a tributary of the Pelly River in the upper Yukon River drainage and is also is one of the larger tributaries within the Pelly River watershed with an area of approximately 3,500 km2.

Despite the large size of the watershed and suitable habitat,  Chinook were not found in previous radio telemetry studies. The telemetry studies included detailed aerial surveys of all possible drainages that could contain Yukon River Chinook populations (Mercer 2005, Mercer and Eiler 2004, Osborne et al. 2003). The lack of radio tagged Chinook in the Tay River system led the researchers to conduct a more detailed aerial investigation of the lower reaches of the system. This investigation and subsequent surveys indicated that an impediment to salmon migration (velocity barrier) was located approximately 5 km upstream of the mouth of the Tay River drainage (Mercer and Eiler 2004).

Due to the Tay River system’s relatively large size and probable spawning and rearing habitat, it may offer one of the better opportunities to significantly increase Chinook production within the upper Yukon River system. The increase in Chinook production would be accomplished by providing and/or improving access for Chinook salmon into the system through modification of the current barrier /impediment to salmon migration.