It’s getting late in the season and Yukon River king salmon passage remains very weak at the U.S.-Canada border.
Holly Carroll is the State Yukon River summer season manager. The run was estimated to be a well below average 160 thousand fish entering the river. She says the run is tracking to fall short of the minimum objective for escapement into Canada.
“That escapement goal is a range 42,500 to 55,000,” Carroll said. “At this point we may not meet the lower end of that goal.”
Carroll says that’s despite a very conservative fishing schedule in Alaska, as well as high water which further reduced harvest. She says the last portion of the run is suspected to be making its way toward the border.
“To protect the remainder of the run that may be there, we have closed all subsistence fishing in District 5.”
Carroll adds that managers have also taken the unusual step of banning 4 inch or smaller gillnets used to target other species, like whitefish.
“We just don’t want any accidental harvest of chinook salmon in that gear.”
Carroll says managers understand that the change hurts musher’s harvest of non-salmon species for their dogs. Calling this year’s fishing season rough, Carroll emphasizes the importance of adequate escapement, noting that ocean research already points to more weak runs in the next couple years.
“Those runs are projected to be smaller than this year,” Carroll said. “While I think this has been an uncomfortable year, I think fishermen are going to need to start preparing for the fact that we may be looking at more total closure years in our future for chinook salmon.”
Carroll says the task is getting creative to better target overlapping summer chum salmon and other species, while protecting chinook.