State again restricts subsistence fishing on Yukon River

June 22, 2011 

FAIRBANKS -- The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has canceled a second fishing period for Yukon River subsistence fishermen so that more king salmon will reach spawning grounds in Canada.

The department last week halted one subsistence fishing period and managers hoped that would be enough.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported, however, that the Yukon king run is weaker than fisheries managers anticipated.

During a teleconference Tuesday with Yukon River fishermen, managers said more restrictions are needed to ensure enough Chinook salmon reach Canada to satisfy escapement goals specified in a treaty.

The Yukon River king salmon run is the backbone of the state's largest subsistence fishery, which supports thousands of villagers living along the 2,000-mile river. Subsistence fishermen catch an average of approximately 50,000 kings per year on the Yukon.

King salmon counted by sonar at Pilot Station, 120 miles upstream from the mouth of the river, were estimated at 28,200 through Monday.

That's fewer than half the average number, 57,900, that historically have passed by that date.

The subsistence fishing schedule permits fishermen to fish two 36-hour or two 48-hour periods each week, depending on where they live.

Managers canceled one fishing period last week to coincide with the arrival of the first pulse and initially announced this week that they would cut a second subsistence fishing period in half.

With the low count, they decided to pull an entire period for most of the river.

Some fishermen on the lower Yukon have already caught enough kings to meet their subsistence needs. Others in the middle and upper sections of the river are just starting to fish.

The department hopes to get a minimum of 135,000 kings past the Pilot Station sonar to meet escapement objectives in Alaska and Canada.

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