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A Yukon River Chinook salmon crash for 2020?

Holly Carroll, the Alaskan Yukon River salmon manager described the 2020 Chinook as a “crash” today on a conference call between Yukon river salmon managers and fishers from Alakanuk at the mouth to Teslin at the headwaters.

Fewer than half the expected numbers of Chinook have been counted so far, but most troubling is that the pulses, the schools, of Chinook that typically come into the river are not materializing.

Instead, we are seeing a slow trickle of fish each day. Carroll projects that as few as 60,000 Chinook could enter the river in 2020.

60,000 might seem like a lot of fish, but it is little more than the number that the Yukon River Salmon Agreement stipulates must cross the border into Canada, and about half this 60,000 will be destined for Alaskan spawning streams.

Few Chinook have been harvested from the Yukon River so far this season, and the Alaskans have essentially closed their Chinook fisheries.

Last summer, Yukoners were shocked when fewer than 300 salmon showed up at the Whitehorse rapids fish ladder, compared to an average of 900-1000.

2020 could be much worse.

In 2019, about 20,000 Canadian origin Chinook disappeared between the fish counting sonar near the mouth and the one at the Canadian border. Many reckon that record high water temperatures caused a mass die off - one was documented on the Koyukuk river, there are scattered reports that something similar took place on the main stem too.

2020 is tracking every bit as warm as 2019.

It is still only about half way through the Chinook run at the mouth of the Yukon, but every day that passes without a big pulse of fish looks to further seal the fate of the 2020 Chinook run.

 

By: Sebastian Jones, Wildlife Analyst

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