YCS and Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee 2020 update
On May 6th, YCS met with the Yukon Salmon Sub Committee (YSSC) to hear about how the 2019 salmon season worked out and to discuss the projections for this summer.
As we may recall, 2019 was a really warm summer and that, combined with low water in the Yukon, and weak Chinook salmon runs meant that once again, not enough Chinook salmon made it across the Yukon border to supply either the minimum number of spawning fish, or a minimal indigenous food fishery.
As many as 20,000 Canadian origin Chinook salmon disappeared between the counting station at the mouth of the Yukon and the station at the Yukon border.
We suspect that the water was so warm that the fish became exhausted and died before they could make it to their spawning grounds.
Will this happen again in 2020?
Well, the salmon run is projected to be about the same size as last year, and the Alaskan fishery is planning to proceed similarly to last year, so if we get a really warm year again, then yes, we could get a repeat of 2019.
Globally, 2020 is running at the highest temperature ever, so far, and the summer is forecast to remain above average.
Naturally, YCS is concerned and so we asked that the YSSC include in its recommendations to the Minister of Fisheries provisions for reducing the fishery, if the river comes in warm again.
Unfortunately, the bilateral body that manages the Yukon River did not meet this spring because of the Covid-19 pandemic, so Canada’s recommendations may not feed into the Alaskan fishing plans.
YCS will continue to take every opportunity to raise these issues: if the fishery in Alaska is not reduced, we shall see a repeat of 2019 when only 281 Chinook made it to the Whitehorse rapids dam.
Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Analyst