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. We hope that our continued and persistent involvement in restoration efforts will one day result in the return of healthy salmon stocks to this watershed.

In 2008, a Klondike River Sonar Feasibility Study was completed by B. Mercer & Associates Ltd. A candidate site was located approximately 4 km upstream from the confluence of the Yukon River (Mercer 2008). This site was chosen for the ease of access to the site via road, river profile is conducive to sonar and weir operation, the location is far enough upstream from the Yukon River but also located downstream of known spawning habitat (Mercer 2008). From 2009 through 2011, Mercer successfully operated a sonar at the Klondike River site, during which time the escapement ranged from 1,181 to 5,147 spawners. For the proposed 2019 project, TH proposes to use the same site and methods which were proven to be successful from 2009 to 2011.

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.