The Yukon River’s Chinook salmon fishery has been on the decline in recent years. In 2010, then Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke declared a “fishery failure” and a “disaster” in the Yukon for low fish returns.
On the heels of a 30-year-worst king salmon run in the Yukon, local fishermen pleaded to shut down the fishing with another dismal projection expected. From the Anchorage Daily News:
Last year’s Chinook run was the worst on record dating back to 1982. Biologists estimate that only 76,000 kings returned to the Yukon River, which is only one-quarter of what the chinook run averaged 15 or 20 years ago.
Subsistence fishing was drastically reduced as a result, much the way it has been for the last several years in what is the state’s largest king salmon subsistence fishery, which has prompted multiple disaster declarations by Gov. Sean Parnell.
Based on information laid out in Tuesday’s meeting, which was sponsored by the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association, the situation doesn’t look any more promising this year. In fact, subsistence fishing may be reduced even more this year to try and get more fish to spawning grounds in Canada.
Biologists are projecting a king salmon run between 64,000 and 121,000 this summer. Given that runs the last several years have come in at the low end of the projection range, biologist Dr. Stephanie Schmidt said ADFG will manage for a run of only 64,000, which would mean a border passage of only about 32,000 kings. …
“These fish are not going to be here forever, not the way we’re catching them,” Huntington told dozens of fishermen sitting around tables in the Binkley Room at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge on Tuesday during a pre-season planning meeting with fisheries managers from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “It wouldn’t hurt to take a few years off and say, ‘Let them go.’ There are other fish out there.”
You know things are bleak when even those who depend on the fish in the river are urging those who make the tough decisions to make a very tough decision.
Here’s a portion of today’s report from CBC expected to shut down the river as the season approaches in the summer:
Fishery manager Jeff Estensen says that includes subsistence harvesters.
“The fishermen on the Alaska side of things can really expect to see no opportunity to fish for Chinook salmon at all in 2014,” Estensen says.
In the 1990s, the Chinook run averaged more than 300,000 fish.
Since 2008, fewer than half that number have returned to the Yukon River.