Yukon River Chinook, Fall Chum and Coho Salmon
Integrated Fisheries Management Plan Summary 2019

The IFMP covers Chinook, fall Chum and Coho salmon fisheries in the Canadian portion of the Yukon River watershed

Download a PDF version of this Management Plan Summary

The purpose of this Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) summary is to provide a brief overview of the information found in the full IFMP. This document also serves to communicate the basic information on the fishery and its management to DFO staff, legislated co-management boards and other stakeholders. This IFMP provides a common understanding of the basic “rules” for the sustainable management of the fisheries resource. The full IFMP is available on request.

This IFMP summary is not a legally binding instrument which can form the basis of a legal challenge. The IFMP can be modified at any time and does not fetter the Minister's discretionary powers set out in the Fisheries Act. The Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify any provision of the IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

Where DFO is responsible for implementing obligations under land claims agreements, the IFMP will be implemented in a manner consistent with these obligations. In the event that an IFMP is inconsistent with obligations under land claims agreements, the provisions of the land claims agreements will prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.

salmon

For additional information on this IFMP Summary or to request an electronic version of the full IFMP, please contact the Regional Salmon Officer via email at:
Ge.Li@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
or at 604-666-3935.

General Overview/Introduction, including map

This 2019/20 Yukon River salmon integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) covers the period July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020.

The IFMP provides a broad context to the management of the Pacific salmon fishery and the interrelationships of all fishing sectors involved in this fishery.

This IFMP covers Chinook and fall Chum fisheries in the Canadian portion of the Yukon River watershed (Figure 1). Fishing plans for First Nation, Recreational and Commercial fisheries are included as Appendix 5 of the IFMP.

Map: salmon fishing Areas, Yukon River, Y.T.

Figure 1. Yukon River Watershed (Canada) - Dark bars delineate commercial and domestic fishing boundaries (shaded grey areas are fishing zones).

Stock Assessment, Science & Traditional Knowledge

Biology

Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Chinook salmon spawn in streams and rivers along the west coast of North America. The Yukon River is one of the most northerly of the major Chinook spawning rivers, and hosts some of the longest upstream migrating salmon stocks in the world. Some headwater stocks migrate in excess of 2,960 kilometres in freshwater to reach their spawning grounds in the Yukon and northern British Columbia. The majority of Chinook salmon spawning in the upper Yukon River occurs in August.

Over the winter, the eggs incubate in the gravel and Chinook fry emerge in the spring and early summer. Some fry leave the rivers of their birth, or “natal” streams, soon after emergence. They may be carried downstream into larger rivers by the spring freshet. Through the summer, many fry will migrate into “non-natal” streams to feed and may migrate significant distances upstream (in a number of documented cases upwards of 75 kilometres) and hundreds of kilometres downstream. In large rivers, juvenile Chinook are often found along the river margins and in the mixing zones where streams and rivers join larger ones. In lakes, Chinook fry have been found in nearshore habitats and near the mouths of tributaries. Juveniles may be abundant in tributaries not used for spawning.

Yukon River Chinook salmon fry must grow rapidly and build up reserves of fat for their first winter in freshwater. This is called the freshwater “rearing” phase. Successful over-wintering of juveniles has been documented only in streams and smaller rivers, although it is expected to also occur in larger rivers. After their winter in freshwater as free swimming juveniles, fry begin their downstream migration to the ocean. The first winter at sea is thought to be a very important time for Chinook salmon and survival during this period can greatly influence the strength of this brood year. Chinook salmon then spend the next 2 to 5 years in the Bering Sea before returning to their natal spawning grounds. Most Chinook salmon return as 5 year olds or 6 year olds, but some return as 4 year olds or 7 year olds (typically less than 10%). There used to be some Chinook salmon in the Yukon River that returned as 8 year olds but none have been recorded for several decades.

Fall Chum Salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)

Chum salmon spawn in rivers and streams along most of the west coast of North America, and along the Bering and Arctic coasts eastwards to the Mackenzie River drainage. The upper Yukon River stocks of this species may have the longest upstream Chum spawning migration in the world with some migrating over 2,700 kilometres in freshwater. In more southerly rivers, adult freshwater migrations tend to be much shorter with spawning occurring closer to the estuaries.

There are two runs of Chum salmon that enter the mouth of the Yukon River. The first to arrive are the summer Chum, which enter the river mouth in early June and reach peak abundance around the third week of June. Summer Chum generally spawn in the lower 800 kilometres of the Yukon drainage and only occasionally migrate into the Canadian section of the drainage.

Adult fall Chum salmon are characterized at the river mouth by later run timing, larger body size and a more silvery appearance than summer Chum salmon. Spawning occurs primarily in the upper portions of the drainage. After spending up to five years in the ocean upper Yukon fall Chum salmon return as spawning adults to the river mouth from mid-July through early September. Peak migration timing of fall Chum salmon entering the Canadian portion of the drainage usually occurs in mid-September. Predominant age classes of mature upper Yukon fall Chum salmon are age-four (62%) and age- five (35%). Spawning has been documented in ground water discharge areas that have water with a constant flow rate and temperature (between three and seven degrees Celsius), along cutbanks and in riffle areas of the mainstem Yukon, and in side channels and sloughs. Peak spawning occurs from October through early November.

Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)

Coho are swift, active fish. These salmon are from California to Alaska, but their major territory lies between the Columbia River and the Cook Inlet in Alaska.

In northern populations, juvenile Coho spend two or three years in freshwater before entering the ocean. Juvenile Coho favour small streams, sloughs and ponds, but can also be found in lakes and large rivers. Migrating as smolts to the oceans, Coho spend up to 18 months in the sea before returning to their natal streams to spawn. While most Coho salmon return to fresh water as mature adults at three years of age, some mature earlier and migrate to their home streams as jacks at only two years.

Little is currently known about Coho populations in the Canadian portion of the Yukon River despite observations in the mainstem and regular First Nation harvests in the Porcupine River.

Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK)/Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)

Both Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) reflect the cumulative knowledge gathered over generations and encompass regional, local and spiritual connections to ecosystems and all forms of plant and animal life. ATK is knowledge held by Aboriginal peoples and communities, while TEK is local knowledge held by Non-Aboriginal communities, including industry, academia, and public sectors. While qualitatively different, both are regionally and locally specific and can often contribute to improving management.

The growing awareness of the value of ATK and TEK is reflected in the increasing requirements for both to be included in environmental assessments, co-management arrangements, species at risk recovery plans, and all coastal management decision-making processes. ATK and TEK may inform and fill knowledge gaps related to the health of salmon stocks and to aid decision making related to development and resource use. Government and the scientific community acknowledge the need to access and consider ATK and TEK in meaningful and respectful ways. A challenge for resource managers is how to engage knowledge holders and ensure that the information can be accessed and considered in a mutually acceptable manner, by both knowledge holders, and the broader community of First Nations, stakeholders, managers, and policy makers involved in the fisheries.

Stock Assessment

Since 2009, a sonar program located at Eagle, Alaska (immediately downstream of the Canadian border) has been the main means of assessing both Chinook and fall Chum salmon returning to the Yukon River (mainstem) in Canada and provides the border passage estimates necessary to confirm spawning escapement and harvest share obligations in the Treaty. This sonar program replaced a long-standing mark-recapture assessment project. In the Porcupine River drainage, a sonar program on the Porcupine River (near Old Crow) provides information on return of Chinook and fall Chum salmon to the Canadian Porcupine watershed and a weir on the Fishing Branch River provides information on escapement of fall Chum salmon to the drainage’s main spawning grounds. Both projects provide occasional information about Coho salmon.

In addition to these border passage assessments there are several other assessment programs that provide information on spawning escapement in select tributaries. Aerial surveys of select index areas in the upper Yukon River are conducted in some years. The Whitehorse Rapids Fishway provides information on the escapement of wild and hatchery-origin returns into the upper Yukon drainage above the Whitehorse hydroelectric dam. Additional escapement enumeration projects are conducted by other parties including First Nations and independent contractors supported by the Yukon River Restoration and Enhancement Fund. Most catch and escapement monitoring programs also include a sampling component to determine the age, size and sex composition of the fish being monitored.

Considerable effort is being spent on collecting tissue samples from major spawning populations throughout the Yukon drainage to complete the genetic baselines for genetic stock identification (GSI) and to increase the capability to monitor specific stocks and/or groups of stocks that lack escapement data. The fall Chum salmon genetic baseline is considered to be well developed, whereas the Chinook salmon baseline requires considerable effort due to the many individual stocks (approximately 100) and remote location of many of these stocks.

Section 3 outlines the salmon ecosystem overview and interactions.

Economic, Social, Cultural Importance

Section 4 of the IFMP provides a socio-economic review of the salmon fishery in Yukon. This section addresses salmon in the context of the Aboriginal food, social, and ceremonial (FSC) fishery, recreational and commercial fishing sectors. DFO recognizes the unique values of each of the fisheries described here. The overview provided in this profile is intended to help build a common understanding of the socio-economic dimensions of each fishery rather than compare the fisheries.

Shared Stewardship Arrangements

As outlined in Section 9, in Pacific Region, DFO consults with and engages First Nations through a wide range of processes. DFO advances shared stewardship by promoting collaboration, participatory decision making and shared responsibility and accountability with resource users and others.

Consultation and engagement with First Nations is central to DFO’s approach to fisheries management (including the development of management strategies described within this IFMP) and fulfilling the Department’s mandate. In addition to supporting good governance, sound policy and effective decision-making, Canada has statutory, contractual and common-law obligations to consult with Aboriginal groups. For example, The Crown has a legal duty to consult and, if appropriate, accommodate, when the Crown contemplates conduct that might adversely impact Fisheries Act Section 35 rights (established or potential).

The development of decision guidelines and specific management measures involves consultation with various First Nation government representatives, groups, individuals as well as coordinated efforts through the YSSC. In the Yukon, consultative processes have been established for some time, particularly through implementation of First Nation Final Agreements. International consultation has been established through the Yukon River Salmon Agreement (YRSA) and the Yukon River Panel (YRP).

Governance Process

Departmental policy development related to the management of fisheries is guided by a range of considerations including legislated mandates, judicial guidance, international and domestic commitments, and a precautionary, ecosystem-based approach to the management of resources. Section 2 provides a brief overview of key policies and the legal context for Pacific salmon management. Policies are developed with considerable consultation from all those with an interest in salmon management. While the policies themselves are not subject to annual changes, implementation details are continually refined where there is general support.

Please see the Salmon Consultation website for more information.

Access and Allocations

The Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other any other valid reasons, modify access, allocations and sharing arrangements outlined in this IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

International

Details can be found at the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) website.

Allocation Guidelines

An Allocation Policy for Pacific Salmon can be found on-line here.

Allocation decisions are made in accordance with the recommendations from the YSSC, First Nation Final Agreements and the Allocation Policy for Pacific Salmon. The allocation policy is based upon a hierarchy of priorities. At low run sizes, subject to conservation concerns, the only fisheries that are provided an allocation are First Nations' fisheries for FSC purposes. At higher run sizes, fishing opportunities for recreational, domestic, and commercial fisheries will be considered as long as the projected run abundance is sufficient to meet escapement and First Nation requirements. The Basic Needs Allocations (BNA) of Chum, Chinook, and Coho salmon for the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation (VGFN) in the Porcupine River is specified in the VGFN Final Agreement (16.10.7.4). The BNA for First Nations that harvest mainstem Yukon River salmon have yet to be finalized. Nonetheless, a primary objective of this management plan is to address the requirements of the First Nation fisheries in Yukon.

Section 7 of the IFMP outlines the detailed information on the long term objectives for the fisheries.

Management of the Fishery

Section 6 of the IFMP outlines the fishery management objectives for stocks of concerns and Section 8 outlines the decision guidelines and specific management measures for each fishery. Specific fishing plans are described in Appendix 3.

# Management Issue Objectives Management Measure
1 Conservation Restore and maintain healthy and diverse salmon populations and their habitat for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of Canada in perpetuity. Fisheries will be managed in accordance with the WSP. The policy goal is advanced by safeguarding the genetic diversity of wild salmon populations, maintaining habitat and ecosystem integrity, and managing fisheries for sustainable benefits.

The fisheries management approach defined within the Yukon River Salmon Agreement of the PST is abundance-based. This approach defines resource conservation as the paramount objective, with harvest fluctuating according to actual abundance rather than to pre-determine (guaranteed) levels. Abundance-based management (ABM) approaches have been developed for upper Yukon Chinook and fall Chum salmon as well as Porcupine (Fishing Branch) River fall Chum salmon. On a drainage-wide scale, the full implementation of reliable ABM regimes awaits the development of improved in-season run abundance,harvest monitoring and stock identification techniques primarily in Alaskan fisheries.

DFO establishes escapement goals for the Chinook and fall Chum salmon returns prior to each fishing season after considering recommendations from the YRP and YSSC.
2 First Nation Fisheries Manage fisheries in recognition of Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, constitutional priority of the First Nations fishery. Subject to conservation needs, first priority is afforded to First Nations for opportunities to harvest Yukon River salmon for FSC/subsistence purposes and any treaty obligations. Specific treaty obligations and considerations are described within individual First Nation Final Agreements.
3 International Manage Canadian fisheries on the Yukon River to ensure that obligations within the YRSA are achieved. Canada has an overarching international obligation to manage its harvest within agreed harvest sharing arrangements as defined within the YRSA.
4 Domestic Allocation Manage fisheries in a manner that is consistent with An Allocation Policy for Pacific Salmon. The Allocation Policy for Pacific Salmon identifies the priority for allocation of salmon harvest and sets sharing arrangements for each of the three different gear groups. The allocation priorities are described below:
  • Priority 1: Attain escapement goals and maintain fish habitat that will result in optimum production of the stocks;
  • Priority 2: Provide for the basic needs of the First Nation fisheries for FSC purposes, and for the Basic Needs Allocations, where specified, in First Nation Final agreements; and
  • Priority 3: Provide salmon harvesting opportunities for recreational, commercial and domestic fishers. These fisheries and provided to harvest fish providing there are no restrictions required in the First Nation fishery.
5 Communication Provide timely information to fishers, communities and the public regarding the status of salmon runs and management decisions. Fisheries and Oceans Canada will compile and communicate weekly run status updates once Chinook salmon arrive at the international border. Included in the updates will be the latest stock assessment information based on the Eagle sonar assessment program, catch information and fishery management information (i.e. openings/closures) in both Canada and the U.S..
6 Enforcement Ensure compliance with Acts and Regulations associated with the management of Pacific Salmon. The Yukon Territory Fishery Regulations, the Fishery General Regulations and the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licences Regulations, established pursuant to the Fisheries Act, are the main legislative guides utilized by DFO for the management of salmon in the Yukon. The Conservation and Protections (C&P) program of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance with the Fisheries Act and associated regulations in relation to anadromous fish in both lakes and river systems, and to ensure compliance with habitat provisions in all water frequented by fish. C&P will continue to work cooperatively with First Nations and other Federal and Territorial agencies and departments (e.g. Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Yukon Territorial Government Environment, etc.) to deliver services.

Compliance Strategy

Specific objectives for the salmon fishery will be to focus compliance management efforts on:

As outlined in Section 10, salmon fishery compliance and enforcement continues to be a significant priority for C&P. Concurrent to the salmon season, compliance and enforcement attention may be required to address violations related to fisheries habitat, shellfish harvest in contaminated areas, and the protection of species at risk. In order to balance multiple program demands, C&P applies a risk-based integrated work planning process at the Regional- and Area levels. This process identifies priorities so that resources are allocated to the areas of greatest need.