Chinook salmon. (Photo: FishBase)
Yukon River salmon forecast dismal
Wednesday, May 30, 2012, 00:40 (GMT + 9)
The 2012 king salmon run in the Yukon River is expected to be worse than last year’s, according to Alaska and federal biologists. They say there may not be commercial fishing for the species for the third consecutive year.
Scientists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the two agencies responsible for managing the chinook run, had already announced that subsistence fishing will not be permitted for the first wave of fish, which they anticipate will arrive this week.
“We’re expecting it to be as bad as or worse than 2011,” said Steve Hayes, Yukon area manager for ADFG, Juneau Empire reports.
Last year’s king salmon run was estimated at 143,000 fish -- one of the worst figures in 30 years. For 2012, managers predict a run of 109,000-146,000 king salmon.
A minimum of 100,000 fish must reach their spawning grounds in Alaska and Canada to perpetuate the Yukon’s king run, including 50,000 required by the Pacific Salmon Treaty that must cross over into Canada.
Since 2007, the border passage goal has been met only twice, including in 2011 when it was estimated at 49,780 kings, Alaska News Miner reports.
This means that subsistence fishers, who catch about 50,000 kings per year to eat, will not be left with much fish and may even be kept from harvesting their usual catch.
“If the run comes in at 100,000 or lower, there is a good chance that there could be very severe restrictions,” Hayes said.
King salmon typically swim into North America’s rivers from the Bering Sea in three or four “pulses.” Restricting subsistence fishing during the first pulse assures that some of the fish enter Canadian rivers.
Test fisheries using nets at the mouth of the river took place early this week. On Friday, ADFG will start counting fish with sonar 120 mi upriver at Pilot Station, thus figuring out if this year’s run is worse or better than projected and whether it warrants more restrictions, Hayes said.
The Yukon Salmon Management Area encompasses the largest river in Alaska. The Yukon River and its tributaries drain an area of approximately 220,000 sqmi within Alaska, while the Canadian portion of the river accounts for another 110,000 sqmi.
Chinook salmon and chum salmon, both summer and fall, are of the most importance to the Yukon River area.
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