The goal of this project is to apply radio tags to Porcupine River Chinook salmon at a tagging location near the Canada/U.S. border, and thereafter to track them to their final spawning destinations throughout the Canadian portion of the Porcupine River watershed. The monitoring of escapement of Canadian origin Chinook salmon into the upper Porcupine River watershed is of high priority to the community of Old Crow and the Vuntut Gwitch’in Government (VGG), as Chinook salmon provide the primary salmon food fishery for community members and a more thorough understanding of Porcupine River Chinook spawning locations is required for the future conservation of this run. The telemetry project is intended to provide information on the geographic distribution of Porcupine Chinook while the concurrent sonar program provides an in-season escapement for the run. Prior to the 2015 Chinook telemetry project, only a limited amount of information was available on Porcupine River Chinook spawning destinations. A small number of salmon outfitted with radio tags entered the Porcupine River during Yukon River drainage wide Chinook telemetry projects in 2003 (CRE-17N-03) and 2004 (CRE-17-04). Over these two years, a total of 26 tags were relocated in the Porcupine River watershed and Chinook spawning was documented in a small number of tributaries including the Miner, Whitestone, Fishing Branch and Crow rivers. During the 2015 telemetry program, a total of 50 Chinook were successfully tagged with esophageal implant tags at Caribou Bar Creek between Old Crow and the Alaska border, and in 2016 a total of 80 Chinook salmon were tagged in the Porcupine River (downstream of Old Crow). Each year provided further evidence of spawning in the previously undocumented Bell River watershed, and revealed new spawning areas including the Bluefish River and a number of tributaries of the Crow River including Black Fox, Thomas, Schaeffer and Potato/Surprise Creek.
A secondary goal of this project is to collect genetic samples from Chinook salmon during the tagging process and assign these to specific stocks (using radio tag relocations). These samples can then be pooled with the existing samples collected during previous years to assist in determining if each of the watersheds represent a unique genetic stock of Chinook.