Yukon River In-season Salmon Management Teleconference Summary #13

PO Box 2898 Palmer, AK 99645
Tel: 907-272-3141 Toll free: 877-999-8566
Fax: 907-272-3142 E-mail:

Greetings from the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association!
Here is a summary of the 13th 2021 Yukon River Salmon In-Season Management Teleconference held Tuesday, August 24, 2021. Call lasted 84 minutes. 47 callers participated.

Background: Yukon River salmon management teleconferences are held annually every Tuesday in June, July, and August for managers and fishers throughout the Yukon River drainage to discuss fishing conditions and management strategies in real time as the salmon run is occurring. Funded by the Office of Subsistence Management and the Yukon River Panel.

Media present: None

Political Representatives participating: Samuel from Senator Sullivan’s office.

Communities participating:
St. Mary’s
Pilot Station
Russian Mission

Yukon River Organization reports:

Serena Fitka – Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association Executive Director: In cooperation with TCC, YRDFA will be providing a platform for fishers along the Yukon River to learn about NPFMC and prepare advocates to give testimony during their upcoming meetings in October and December. We will have weekly meetings during the month of September with guest speakers and others to help guide us in this process. If you would like to participate please email me at by Friday, August 27th. More information and detail will be posted on our website, facebook and emailed to all the Tribal offices.

Elizabeth MacDonald – Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee Executive Director: ED YSSC. Advisory body created under Final Agreement. Main instrument of salmon management in the Yukon. Made up of a board. Covid is the same with limited group size. School also started.
Ed Exchange update – We are virtual this year. Visited Morley River. They flew and counted only 10 chinook. Historically they would see 400-500 chinook. Can’t imagine flying that far and only seeing 10 Chinook. Did not take Brood stock. Deadman Creek, etc. they are seeing empty spawning grounds. Thanks to everyone who has done anything for salmon this year. Want as many salmon as possible to make it to the spawning grounds this year.

Brooke Woods- Yukon River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Chairwoman: Exec council met yesterday. It will conclude our in season meetings. We are gearing up for post season meetings with all the commissioners. Focusing on strengthening our tribal efforts. Each commissioner will have opportunities to provide updates. A few things I wanted to share: We have strengthened our partnership with YRDFA and YDFDA. We will work together for the fish emergency declaration and work on getting representatives to DC. Some things we’d like to see is an emergency addendum to the Board of Fish to better understand the salmon decline. Working with the Alaska delegation in DC for the current management and funding for research for the decline. We will design a great meeting and prepare for next fishing season which is expected to be worse than this year. We will be working on the NPFMC training and relevant training. We would like to do a net making and hanging class this winter. Another idea for cultural training during low king runs is possibly fish wheel learning in the communities.

Management Reports:

Bonnie Borba – ADF&G Yukon River Area Research Biologist: Good afternoon, Yukon Area Fall Season Biologist, back in Fairbanks. Update on Assessment. Fall chum salmon cumulative as of Aug 23, are well below expected averages. Average length has increased to 560 mm. Historical average 57% to this date. 160,000 counted and is well below median for this date. 61,000 fish compared to 119,000 estimates last year. ¾ completed run. Fall chum salmon run is so low that not enough samples have been collected for analysis. Next week 95% of the run should be fall chum salmon. 77,000. Average run size is 1 million fish. Cumulative passage of coho is 12,000 which compares to 80,000 median for this date. Average index is 243,000 fish. Last year was one of the lowest runs at 120,000. Latest run timing was 2020. Previous was 1995.

Christy Gleason – ADF&G Yukon River Area Fall Manager – We want to let fishermen know that there are no changes to fishing schedules or gear. Please call our office if you have any questions. Both runs are extremely poor. We cannot open any fishing. We are reaching new lows for chum and coho, which should concern fishers. Number of females are slightly below average and the fish are small. Please use the non salmon fishing opportunities. If you are using a net less than 60’, please use them in a place where you will not catch salmon.
Questions: Are you using non salmon gear? Are you successful? If we provide an opportunity for manned fishwheels for non-salmon, would you use them? And are you waiting for cooler temperatures for non-salmon fishing?

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Gerald Maschmann- US Fish & Wildlife Service Yukon River Area Assistant Manager-Thanks for that report Christy. This miserable year continues into the fall.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Oliver Baker – Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Biologist: Chinook that are headed for Canada have crossed the border. We are still waiting on chum. Should be showing up any day now. Old crow has 474 chinook estimates. 12% of run, which is poor. Klondike sonar 843 fish, finished up its season last week. Well below normal runs. Pelly 4792 chinook, well below average. Carmacks – cooler water has fish moving to the spawning area. We will have numbers postseason. Whitehorse fish ladder 149 fish, well below average. Environmental conditions: Cooler temperature which is moderating the glacial melt. Temps will trend down. Headwaters remain high. They seem stable, but below peak levels in July. Recent and rapid rises in central Yukon. Northern Yukon has been rising. Water temps are cool.

Jesse Trerice – Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Nearly all of the Chinook that will cross into Canada have passed the Eagle sonar Significantly less than the goal of 42,500. Expect chum salmon to be exceptionally low. DFO will be maintaining closures in the Canadian region. No management changes on the salmon front. Challenging year for everyone.

Community level reports:

Whitehorse: Elizabeth – Water high, no one fishing. I was in Teslin Thursday, the river looked good. Lake water fairly high. Only a few salmon on the spawning grounds. I was in Atlin Last week and the lake was as high as I’ve ever seen it.

Dennis – Nothing to report other than to say the YRP has a communication subcommittee. We are always interested in communications along the entire river. Looking for feedback and suggestions for initiatives between Canada and the US.

Districts 6a, b & c
Nenana: Victor – River is low. People have been gathering for a moose hunt next to our tribal hall. People are focused on that since there is no fishing. I missed the US report, I tuned in late. I listened to Brooke, she was talking about different meetings. It is good that we are having them. I am lost as to why there are no fish and why they are disappearing. It is frustrating.

Serena – I know Holly Carroll was recently talking about this.

Holly – Victor, are you asking what is happening to all the salmon in general? I wish I had an answer for you today. Particularly with chinook – in the river we have a slightly higher estimate of passage, and then we are shocked at what shows up at the border. There may be broader things happening that are affecting the chum that are different from what is happening with the chinook.
You know that there is a joint technical committee. There is a committee of scientists that are working on answering these questions. Some things we are looking at are ick. We’ve instituted some baseline testing, and hope to expand our testing next year. We may need to harvest more fish to determine if fish are dying of this disease, but that is one area we are working on. There are full teams at the university, NOAA and others that are studying the ocean to try to figure out this crash.

Victor – The fish disaster hits the people and our fish. Hopefully you can get more money for your studies and it will help everyone that way.

District 4a-Upper Yukon
Koyukuk: Benedict – Nothing to report but I forgot to report. About 3 weeks ago I was riding up the Koyukuk River and I saw one dead king salmon. Floating in the river. The water table is about the same.

District 3- Lower Yukon
Russian Mission: Basil – The water is coming up. We’ve had rain. Yesterday it was just raining half the day, but we are back to more rain today. The water is clear. My boy shot a beaver and it sank, and we were actually able to see it and get it out of the water. Everyone is still in berry picking mode. Every 4 days my brother puts his net in the water in front of town to get some dog food. Lots of white fish. Birds are showing up. School started and moose season is getting ready. We have a thing here where they give you 30 gallons of fuel with 2 kids, and you take pictures and they talk about their adventures. A couple of guys got a moose. It had some pus sacs. We didn’t take pictures, but he brought it to my attention. We’ve been having unusual north winds for this time of year. And back to the low numbers of fish: for the last 5 years, we have dog mushers and go after the eels for food, but for the last 5 years there have not been any. And we noticed that the salmon fell hard after that. No adult eels passed in about 5 years.

District 2-Coastal/Lower Yukon
Marshall: Norma sent in a report: Since last week the water came up 5 ft from last week’s shoreline, Every half hour I saw a log pass, and there was moderate erosion. Families started moose hunting.

Pilot Station: Martin – as far as fishing, nothing to report. Want to make a few points after Holly’s comments. The other fisheries, like the Bristol Bay region, were thriving. They had record numbers. I recently read that if salmon cannot find their stream, they use their energy to look and use their energy and die. Curious about the nuclear disaster accident in Japan 5 years ago. Might be an alien spaceship coming down and sucking up our salmon. We can play games like we don’t know what we should know. Bristol Bay fishery did millions and millions of sales and we haven’t been able to get 1-3 salmon per household in Pilot Station.

Elizabeth- I am not the person that did the studies, but the PSC did an info sheet on fukushima. When they did testing there was no radiation found in the flesh of the fish. There is an organization that looks at the effects, and they said if you live in a concrete house, you are getting more radiation than eating a healthy subsistence diet. If they don’t have much in them, they are probably not eating a whole lot in the ocean.

Christy – The Alaska Dept. of Conservation has a website and you can look at testing results there. There has been no radiation in the seafood that they test annually.

Martin – I just used Fukushima as an example of the pollution from global warming. Food for thought.

St. Marys: Bill – Nothing much to report here. Same old same old. Water seems to be coming up. Watch out for Aliens.

General questions:
Benedict – Question about Emmonak sonar. What is fall chum count lately?
Bonnie – Pilot Station total count 106,000, apply genetics and 61,000 fall chum.
Victor – Was that 61,000 fall chum. And what is normal for this time of year?
Bonnie- 651,000 is normal.
Victor – We are 10x’s under.

Basil – I was wondering if there are any studies on what the main food source is for the salmon in the ocean? And is Moose hunting going to be extended to help us with the low numbers we’ve been having the last few years?

Bonnie – I don’t know what their food sources are off hand.
Victor – local hunters need more moose meat. We need enough for them to get their moose meat.

Gerald – Typically extending moose hunts on federal lands which for most folks it would be on Federal Refuges. You should contact your local refuge manager.

Bonnie – Juvenile salmon eat insects, adults eat fish, squid, copo pods, tuna cape. Coho are more predatory than chum, so their diets are a little different.

Victor – Do they eat pollock babies?

Bonnie – Squid and fish like herring, small crustaceans and insects.

Basil – Food for salmon. Do we know how affected they are by Fukushima? Since the state is saying that the big pollock industry has been there forever and shouldn’t be affecting us. But we know it is not us because we are shut off.
Bonnie – I don’t know. The marine biologists are looking at those things. The food chain of the salmon. If they’ve tested anything that would affect that.

Christy – Those are all good questions that Basil and Victor have. The diet of chum and king salmon and what is affecting them. Sabrina Garcia is going some work, they are looking at the diets of what different fish are eating. They did present some preliminary data from juvenile abundance and their diet. We can ask them for updated information. And will they share at federal meetings?

Jaylene – Marshall – I couldn’t unmute earlier. My question is, do you have any updated data for AYK bound fish in Area M?
Serena – They are posted on the ADF&G website, I will post it and email it to you. I don’t know the numbers off hand.

Martin – She brought up a good point with Area M. And I brought up Commercial fishery in Bristol Bay that had record numbers. Is the department doing any genetic salmon to see if any of that salmon was Yukon Bound salmon?

Christy – ADF&G – Area M, no new genetic information. Previous genetic (mid 2000s) info showed that fish harvest in July and August make up less than 1% of commercial catch that are headed to the Yukon. At this time, we do not have any information showing that is the cause of the decline in salmon. Leaning more towards a marine effect because we see it in all salmon, not just a Yukon problem and definitely not the Yukon fishermen who are causing this problem.

Jaylene – I keep hearing that 1% of the bycatch is AYK bound. How big of a number are they sampling of the bycatch in AreaM?

Christy – they aren’t doing any genetic work right now. So those numbers are based on previous work they did. So what we do is look at the total catch and take 1% of that.

Victor- the genetic and all that stuff out there in the High Seas, I’m hoping that that guy from Sullivan’s office is taking this home to Sullivan. I know we have disasters around the world but we count up here too. We are getting pretty desperate.

Jaylene – One more question: In your professional opinions, what do you think is the most realistic decline in our stock?

Bonnie- a combination of a lot of things. Widespread. Marine acidification, the blob, warm pull, cold pull. Just seems like there is a large marine component. Really hard to study in the ocean. It’s going to take a lot of researchers working together. It’s something bigger than all of us. We are just trying to learn about it. Whether we can change it or not, that’s a whole different thing.

Christy – when we saw the low number of fall chum last year. And then the low numbers of coho. We looked at parent years. We didn’t see any flooding on spawning grounds, water temp was normal for their migration upriver. Just to share that we are looking at different factors.
Victor – So noted, and good job!

Christy – Everything that you are telling us about your areas are super helpful. Thank you!

Jaylene – When will we no longer be under management?

Christy – Subsistence fishing is closed. We don’t have a date when we will open fishing again, it will probably be early October for the lower Yukon and late October for the upper Yukon.

—–Call ends at 2:24pm—-

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