The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is asking Americans fishing in the Yukon River to voluntarily reduce the number of chinook salmon they catch.


A fisherman pulls a salmon from his gill net in July 2001 on the Yukon River in Alaska. ((Sam Harrell/Associated Press))

A report about the chinook salmon run made public on Monday says the run is late this year and numbers of returning fish are below average to poor. The report expresses concern about meeting U.S.-Canada Yukon River Treaty obligations, which require enough salmon to reach Canadian waters to allow adequate spawning and harvest sharing between the countries.

"If individual fishermen along the river can all make small harvest adjustments, then the Canadian escapement goal and agreed to harvest sharing may be met without the need for management-directed restrictions. However, restrictions could be necessary if Canadian-origin fish passage does not improve," the department's assessment states.

Fisheries managers on the Canadian side of the border are predicting there will be a ban on commercial and sport fishing this summer.

Sebastian Jones, a commercial fisher from Dawson City, says he's not surprised by the news.

"For a long time we've managed fisheries for fishers, for people, and we haven't really looked after the fish," Jones said. "No one's really been able to make a living from fishing for a while now, since 10 years, 12 years."

It's possible that aboriginal Canadians may also be asked to voluntarily reduce the number of fish they take, said Frank Quinn, regional director for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, but he emphasized that to date no decision has been made about such a request.