Yukoners and Alaskans who fish along the Yukon River should expect another critically low salmon run this year, federal fisheries officials warn.
Last year's salmon run on the river fell nearly 10,000 fish short of the target of 45,000 fish that should have reached their spawning grounds in the Yukon, despite unprecedented conservation measures set by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
"There was no commercial fishery, no domestic fishery, no sport fishery either. And we had a voluntary reduction in the First Nations fishery as well," Frank Quinn, the department's area manager for the Yukon, said Monday.
Early-season projections are calling for another poor salmon run this year. Quinn said he expects fishing restrictions will be as tough as they were last year, if not tougher.
Quinn said contractors have been hired to speak to people in villages on the Alaska side of the Yukon River, to "let them know that there will be serious conservation measures needed to be taken this year and to allow them to prepare for that."
Alaskans will also be encouraged to seek alternative food sources this year, he added.
"For them, it's hard to watch the fish swim by their front door to come to Canada to spawn," he said. "But they've got to understand that if that doesn't happen, they won't be coming back in the future."
Quinn said that for the first time, Alaskan officials have agreed to delay the start of any salmon fishing on the Yukon River until at least one-quarter of the run has passed any given point on the river.