Category: 2021

Nisutlin River instream incubation trial and aerial surveys

This project involves a combination of field work and assessments, aerial surveys, and office tasks to complete a small instream incubation trial in the mainstem of the Nisutlin River with the intent of gathering comparative data for Chinook egg survival in Deadman Creek, Morley River and other Yukon Chinook spawning areas. In recent years, Morley River has been used as a control for Chinook restoration in the Teslin River watershed (Deadman Creek). However, previous work done on the Nisutlin River has shown that it could potentially be a better control to compare to restoration efforts in the Teslin River watershed, and, more specifically, provide more appropriate comparisons for assessing the success of incubating activities in Deadman Creek. Results of this project (wild survival) will not only be useful for this project but will also fill a considerable data gap for Yukon River Chinook and will help to inform Chinook stock restoration projects elsewhere in the Yukon River watershed, particularly those involving instream incubation.

Takhini River Chinook Salmon Sonar Project

This project involves Chinook salmon enumeration on the Takhini River (Yukon River tributary) to monitor spawning escapement in the watershed. During 2017 and 2018, sonar enumeration of Chinook salmon was successfully completed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), Whitehorse. It is proposed that the site used by DFO be utilized again to set up and run the sonar enumeration program through the 2022 Chinook salmon migration period and to set the stage for operation of the sonar in future years. The findings of this project will help to set the stage for stock restoration in the Takhini River watershed by providing accurate estimates of spawning escapement prior to the initiation of a well designed restoration project.

Stewart River Chinook Salmon Sonar Site Feasibility

The proposed project is a sonar feasibility assessment for the mainstem Stewart River within the Traditional Territory of the First Nation of the Na’Cho Nyäk Dun (FNNND). The FNNND remains concerned about low Chinook returns to the Stewart River watershed in recent years and has a goal to initiate operation of a sonar enumeration project in the near future in order to provide an escapement count for the watershed. The Stewart River watershed does not currently have any assessment projects for Chinook despite being defined as a Yukon Chinook salmon conservation unit (CU-74) and accounting for 6-10% of the Canadian origin Chinook (based on drainage wide telemetry projects and recent genetic sampling at Eagle Sonar).
The FNNND collaborated with EDI during 2015 to determine the feasibility of operating sonar on the mainstem Stewart River including the investigation of 26 candidate sites between the McQuesten River and the confluence with the Yukon River. Much of the work done by this 2015 project is still applicable and does not need to be repeated; however, in order to ensure that sonar can adequately be deployed in the next 1-3 years, confirmation of the two high suitability sites identified during 2015 is proposed for 2021. The proposed project will involve visiting these two candidate sites to: deploy an ARIS sonar to determine image quality, collect bathymetric data, determine test fishing locations, and investigate camp and access point locations.

Pilot Station and Eagle Sonar summer season extension

The primary objective of this project is to increase the likelihood that the entire Chinook salmon run is fully estimated at both the Pilot Station and Eagle sonar projects, by beginning operations early enough to assess the front end of the run. Early project operations will improve the completeness and utility of information provided to U.S. and Canadian fisheries managers and researches tasked with endeavoring to achieve the objectives set forth in the Yukon River Salmon Agreement between the U.S. and Canada. The estimates from the extended period will be reported to fishery managers and stakeholders daily, archived in the Arctic- Yukon-Kuskokwim Database Management System (AYKDBMS), and included in the annual project report.

Pilot Station fall season extension

The primary objective of this project is to more completely assess the late portion of fall chum and coho salmon passage at the Pilot Station sonar project by extending field operations by a week. The daily estimates from the extended period will be reported to fishery managers daily, archived in the Arctic–Yukon–Kuskokwim Database Management System (AYKDBMS), and included in the annual project report.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Juvenile Chinook Salmon Outmigration at the Yukon River Mouth

Juvenile outmigration is an important life stage for Yukon River Chinook salmon. Recent research suggests that much of the variability in Chinook salmon production may occur prior to the first summer at sea (Howard et al. 2016, Murphy et al. 2017) and that larger fish with higher energy content at the end of their first marine summer had a greater chance of surviving to adulthood (Howard et al. 2016). Outmigration from the river to the marine environment is physiologically stressful. Larger in-river has been linked to both downstream survival (Zabel & Achord 2004) and adult returns (Zabel & Williams 2002, Woodson et al. 2013) in wild Chinook populations, and suggests that early growth in fresh water may be an important indicator of later growth (Ruggerone at al. 2009). This is consistent with an emerging idea that fish need to prepare themselves for life history transitions such as smolting or offshore migrations. This preparation is associated with increased energy reserves, which are maximized by increased size.

The objectives of this project are to quantify outmigration timing from ice out through the end of the August,  examine size (length and weight), growth, diet, energetic condition, and smolting stage of outmigrating juveniles in relation to environmental variables in the freshwater and nearshore marine environment, and to collect genetic samples to assess outmigrant origin.