Tough conservation measures being promised by Alaskan regulators on the Yukon River chinook salmon fishery are being watched closely by fisheries officials on the Canadian side of the river.
The chinook salmon fishery, also known as the king salmon fishery in the U.S., runs along the Yukon River through Alaska and Yukon. But the fishery has nearly collapsed in recent years, forcing Alaskan regulators to consider tough new rules for that state's subsistence fishery.
"The subsistence fishery in Alaska is the biggest harvester of chinook right now. Anyone who lives in communities outside of Anchorage pretty well has access to the resource," said Frank Quinn, Yukon regional manager with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Measures being considered in Alaska for 2011 include a moratorium on fishing the first major pulses of chinook salmon early in the season, as well as tough limits on the commercial sales of fish strips.
Regulators are also looking at banning any harvesting of salmon for dog food.
Quinn, who also co-chairs an international panel on the Yukon River salmon management, said he hopes the restrictions Alaska imposes will allow more chinook salmon to reach their spawning grounds on the Yukon side of the river.
"Every indication we have from the meeting in Anchorage is that we'll see a much more conservative program than we saw in 2010," he said.
But Quinn warned that subsistence fishing on the Yukon River is so well established in Alaska that it could be difficult to impose any new restrictions on communities along the river.
"A lot of these are remote communities, and they depend on the fish for protein in their freezers, and when you're asking them to restrict the fishery, you're taking food off their table," Quinn said.
"There doesn't seem to be that same mature understanding of the need for conservation that exists in Canada."
Alaska's tribal leaders are slated to meet in January with the U.S. Federal Subsistence Board to discuss if and how the fishery restrictions might be applied in 2011.