Pelly River Chinook Salmon Sonar Program

This project proposes to operate a sonar enumeration program on the lower Pelly River (downstream of the community of Pelly Crossing) for the purpose of enumerating Chinook salmon that spawn in the mainstem Pelly River and all of its tributaries. The Pelly River supports Selkirk First Nation’s (SFN) Chinook salmon fishery and is one of the largest contributors of Canadian origin Yukon River Chinook salmon, based on genetic stock identification, at the Eagle Sonar site near the Canada/U.S. border. There is currently no index of Chinook salmon escapement for the mainstem of the Pelly River and SFN is keen on developing a more localized means to manage this important Chinook stock.

SFN has recently entered into dialogue with DFO’s Yukon staff with regard to the local management of the Pelly River Chinook salmon stock; it is SFN’s intention take a more active role in the management and conservation of Chinook salmon in the Pelly River through a locally developed Salmon Management Plan. The first stage of this local Salmon Management Plan includes developing an SFN operated stock assessment program for Chinook salmon on the Pelly River, and in support of this objective, SFN conducted a reconnaissance survey of the lower Pelly River in August 2015 and located a candidate sonar site with a bathymetric profile, current pattern and river banks shape/composition that is suited to the operation of split-beam or multi-beam sonar. The site is located approximately 20 km upstream of the mouth of the Pelly River and is downstream of all but one of SFN citizen’s fish camps. This site could also support a test fishery for species apportionment, as well as a seasonal field camp to support the operation of the sonar program.

The first goal of this project is to begin the development of an accurate, in-season stock assessment tool to estimate the annual passage rates for Chinook salmon in the Pelly River. The second goal of this project is to begin to build local capacity, including technical training and full time employment for local SFN citizens.