Category: 2020

2020 Fund Project

Promoting the Chum Salmon Angling Fishery

Chinook salmon numbers in the Canadian section of the Yukon River have been low in recent years, which has precluded non-First Nation Yukoners from fishing Chinook and resulted in reductions in the First Nation fishery. While Chinook numbers are low, mainstem chum have been more than sufficient for spawning escapement (70,000 to 104,000) and supporting a harvest. The harvest of chum in the Yukon has been around 3,000 per year since 2009.
The reasons for the small harvest are varied. The chum run is much later in the season (peak in September), which means children are in school, and it can be cold (good for storing chum, hard on boats, gear, and people). Perhaps the largest barrier to the fishery is a perception that chum salmon are dog food and not good for humans. This project is designed to change that perception and show anglers how to catch them. In addition to changing the perception that chum is not for humans, anglers need to be encouraged to catch chum in the Yukon River. The angling fishery on the Yukon River has essentially been closed since 2007 (with limited opportunities until 2011) resulting in Yukoners going to Haines, Alaska to fish. This project will showcase the Chum salmon angling opportunities here on the Yukon River to get Yukoners thinking about fishing for salmon here at home.

Porcupine River Chum Harvest Guideline Community Signage

Many citizens in Old Crow and VGFN have advocated for self-regulation and voluntary restrictions with the understanding that harvest management options are best implemented with increased communication, education and outreach. The goal of this project is to improve those key factors with the installation of two signs which will be updated regularly during the Chum run. The signs will serve to communicate to the community the pre-season forecasts, in-season counts from Porcupine Sonar and Fishing Branch weir & sonar, and the Chum Harvest guideline based on the information at hand.

Na’Cho Nyäk Dun Salmon Planning Initiative

The proposed project would support the Na’Cho Nyäk Dun (NND) First Nation in developing a community-based plan for salmon management within their traditional territories, including the Stewart River watershed. Also included in this proposed plan are opportunities to engage with local conservation efforts and plans, and support for forward-thinking strategies and policies to support NND citizens in adapting to and/or mitigating change. This project will bring NND citizens together to reinvigorate, energize and collaborate on salmon management through two phases. Phase 1 will focus on information gathering and knowledge sharing, and this knowledge will be combined with a technical literature review and survey study to create a holistic image of the NND salmon culture and community from past to future. Phase 2 to be applied for in 2021 will work with the information from Phase 1 and will be instrumental in the development NND Community-Driven Salmon Management Plan.

Morley River Chinook Stock Restoration Research

This project involves a combination of field assessments and office-based tasks to set the stage for Chinook stock restoration on the Morley River, a tributary of Teslin Lake in the upper portion of the Teslin River watershed. Morley River is well known as a Chinook spawning stream and the stream continues to be used for spawning currently. The Deadman Creek Chinook stock restoration project has collected a considerable amount of information on Chinook spawning in Morley as this stream has served as a source of brood stock and a control stream for egg planting methods being used in Deadman Creek. From 2016 to 2019, both egg hatching and emergence success were high and provided strong confidence in the quality of the incubation conditions in Morley River, particularly the portion directly downstream of Morley Lake where this work has focused. The portion of the Morley River where this work was undertaken is located 1-2 km downstream of Morley Lake and therefore has very little fine sediment present and the stream remains open during the winter months due to the outflow of relatively warm water from the lake. Despite these highly suitable conditions for spawning, spawner returns to the watershed are far below historic levels based upon local/traditional knowledge and historical aerial survey data. Considering this collective information and the accessibility of the watershed, Morley River is an ideal location to conduct a stock restoration initiative. The current project is proposed to complete a watershed specific restoration plan for Morley River Chinook and to collect field data to inform the preparation of this plan.

Mica Creek Chinook Restoration Investigation

The purpose of this project is for the Selkirk First Nation (SFN) to conduct Chinook salmon habitat assessment and monitoring on Mica Creek to set the stage for future restoration opportunities in the watershed. Mica Creek is a medium to large creek that flows into the Pelly River within the community of Pelly Crossing and is the most accessible and visible of the Chinook spawning creeks in the Selkirk First Nation Traditional Territory. There is a considerable knowledge base of salmon utilization in the watershed; however, this information is dated (1990s, early 2000s) and requires updating. This project aims to update existing information of Chinook salmon in Mica Creek to assist in determining suitable options for salmon restoration and enhancement within the stream. Existing community information indicates that although Chinook continue to spawn in the watershed currently, their numbers of extent of spawning habitat were formerly much larger than currently. Chinook salmon are culturally and spiritually significant to Selkirk First Nation, for that reason all aspects of this projects would be in line with SFN’s salmon management plan; Our Way – salmon from long time ago and today. This project will investigate methods of restoration that create benefits while maintaining broader goals of maintaining stock diversity and sustainable harvesting opportunities. Mica Creek is located in a relatively pristine area and the importance of focusing on sustainable actions to help the native fish species is of the utmost importance to SFN.

Ibex River Chinook Incubation Trial

This project is a small-scale instream incubation trial on the Ibex River (Takhini River tributary) to collect information on the suitability of the river as Chinook egg incubation habitat and inform restoration planning for the Takhini River as a whole. The Ibex River provides high quality juvenile Chinook rearing habitat and although spawning Chinook have been documented in the river in small numbers during the recent past, this project is required to better assess the quality of spawning habitat present. This project is unprecedented in its collaborative nature and begins the process for making our citizens aware of salmon in our traditional territories, ties it to the broader processes, empowers us to take community-based actions towards rebuilding, preserving, managing, and celebrating our salmon cultures, peoples, and habitats.

Surveying Chinook Salmon spawning areas in the Beaver River watershed to establish conservation strategies for Na-Cho Nyäk Dun FN

The Beaver and Rackla drainages are tributary to the upper Stewart River, located in the boreal mountains of central Yukon and within the traditional territory of the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun (NND). Unlike the Mayo River, the Beaver and Rackla Rivers have not been comprehensively and accurately mapped for salmon spawning sites and reaches due to their rugged terrain and remoteness (Brown et al. 2017). Much of the area is alpine tundra and exposed rock, with valley-bottom wetlands and patchy spruce and aspen forests (O’Donoghue et al. 2013). There are no year-round access routes in the area, but mineral staking and exploration have greatly increased the amount of industrial human activity in the watershed since the mid-2000’s. The NND community once used the Beaver and Rackla Rivers as a traditional fishing/hunting route, and are keen to re-engage because they have strong concerns for overall Chinook Salmon stocks in their territory and the potential impacts of a new road and mineral exploration and development on spawning areas within the watershed.


Tatchun Creek Chinook Enumeration

Video enumeration of adult salmon migration is an accurate and precise method for estimation of both run timing and total escapement on smaller river systems. That aspect, combined with this project’s simple design and operation allows for establishment of affordable, long term enumeration programs. The Tatchun chinook run was surveyed regularly from 1970-2000 with a variety of aerial, foot, float and weir techniques.  Given the past data set and the contribution of this stock to the local stock grouping it could act as a proxy for other stocks in the area.  Establishment of an affordable, long term Tatchun chinook escapement survey would likely have great value for upper Yukon chinook stock assessment requirements.

This project will deploy a weir equipped with a video counter to record all adult salmon migrating into the Tatchun Creek from the mainstem Yukon River.

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.