Chinook salmon conservation on agenda in Whitehorse talks
Yukon River Panel meets to plan this year's strategy to increase dwindling stocks
Delegates from Yukon and Alaska are in Whitehorse this week to come up with a conservation strategy for the declining Chinook salmon stocks in the Yukon River for the coming season.
Chinook, or King, salmon runs in the Yukon River have dwindled in recent years. In the 1990s, the Chinook run averaged more than 300,000 fish. Since 2008, fewer than half that number have returned to the Yukon River.
"We really don't know what the answer is," said Victor Lord, an Alaskan adviser to the Yukon River Panel.
"My main concern is the size of them — getting smaller — and the numbers period."
Delegates from the panel are taking workshops, and talking about various options for restoring the stock.
Yukoner Pauline Frost said conservation is the main tool.
"Last year you saw a complete moratorium on fishing in Alaska and Yukon, so unprecedented decisions and management took place and we want to see that continue."
Last year marked the first time a complete fishing ban was imposed along the entire length of the Yukon River, through Alaska and Yukon. It also became the first time in years that the number of Chinook returning to spawn in the Yukon River was above the minimum set out in a Canada-U.S. treaty.
But there are still concerns about the health and future of the wild salmon population.
Frost said the Yukon River Panel is looking to allocate $1.2 million to salmon restoration and enhancement projects.
"We're doing our due diligence, looking at every possible option," she said.