Replenishing Major Food Sources of Native Alaskan Tribes: Managing Yukon River Chinook Salmon Populations
Megan Lorino, UAF Wildlife Biology and Conservation Studies
Populations of Chinook Salmon have been dwindling in the Yukon River for many years and have been monitored closely by scientists with the goal of bringing healthy populations back. Native Alaskan tribes have always relied heavily on these salmon populations as a major food source. The United States and Canada came to an agreement in 2016 known as the Yukon River Salmon Agreement; the goal of this agreement was to begin working on restoring healthy salmon populations which end up being harvested in both Canada and the United States. Climate Central reported that in 2014 Chinook Salmon populations in the Yukon River dropped so low that there was a hold put on subsistence fishing. Native Alaskans rely heavily on these salmon populations for subsistence in their tribes. “Subsistence salmon fishing is at the core of many residents’ livelihood; integrating fish wheels, dip netting and fish smoking into many Alaskans’ everyday life. Salmon are more than food or just fish – they are a way of life to many Alaskans (Beutler, 2016).” I examine possible solutions for preserving and rebuilding salmon populations in the Yukon River with the goal of replenishing this important food source for Native Alaskan tribes which still rely on harvesting wild resources in order to survive. Environmental factors such as sea ice temperature and salt concentrations will need to continue being monitored to determine where fisheries management can assist in spawning and abundance of this critical food source.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game, 2019. 2019 Yukon River Salmon Fisheries Outlook. http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/applications/dcfnewsrelease/1029815354.pdf
Alaska Department of Fish and Game, n.d. Subsistence in Alaska. Overview: Definition, Responsibilities and Management. https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=subsistence.definition
Beutler, H. 2016. Threat to Salmon Imperils Alaska’s Culture. Climate Central. https://www.climatecentral.org/news/when-salmon-disappear-alaskan-culture-may-follow-20522
Burke, J. 2012. Alaska Natives rally for restored aboriginal hunting, fishing rights. Anchorage Daily News. https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/article/alaska-natives-rally-restored-aboriginal-hunting-fishing-rights/2012/10/18/
Gautier, A. 2019. Running against time: Forecasting Chinook salmon runs on the Yukon River. NSIDC Highlights. National Snow & Ice Data Center. https://nsidc.org/nsidc-highlights/2019/08/running-against-time-forecasting-chinook-salmon-runs-yukon-river
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 2002. U.S. and Canada Sign Historic Yukon River Salmon Agreement. News Releases. https://www.fws.gov/news/ShowNews.cfm?ref=us-and-canada-sign-historic-yukon-river-salmon-agreement&_ID=2592
Overfishing, CPUE, and Commercially Extinct Species.
February, 17, 2019. By Megan Lorino
University of Port Elizabeth published an article in 1981 on the topic of catch per unit effort using gill-nets in the Sundays River estuary of South Africa. Their data was obtained from 55 catches using gill-nets. Nets were positioned in lower, middle, and upper reaches of the estuary. Each site was selected with avoidance of boat traffic in mind. Measurements were taken of salinity as well as (surface) water temperature of each site. CPUE was recorder for each caught species on a monthly basis and always included number per species as well as weight of each given species.
The most abundantly caught species was the sea catfish Tachysurus feliceps which totaled 226 individual fish, followed by the flathead mullet Mugil cephalus with a total of 191 individual fish, the souther mullet Liza richardsoni with a total of 185 individual fish, and the kob Argyrosomus hololepidotus with a total of 175 individual fish. The Argyrosomus hololepidotus (kob) was the dominant catch in terms of weight, weighing 315kg, followed by the spotted grunter Pomadasys commersonni weighing 165kg. This particular study was to evaluate the abundance of varying species within the communities of the Eastern Cape estuaries. Gill-nets were set up between 1976 and 1979. 1,258 total fish were caught during this study. The CPUE (catch per unit effort) was 21kg/standard net.
Marais, J. (1981) African Journals Online. African Zoology. Seasonal abundance, distribution, and catch per unit effort using gill-nets, of fishes in the Sundays estuary. Retrieved from https://www.ajol.info/index.php/az/article/view/152270/141866
Commercial extinction (of fish) is determined when a particular species of fish has become too rare to be caught for profit any longer. This occurs after a process of depletion – the reduction of that particular species due to overfishing. Recovery from overfishing causing an oceanic fishery to collapse can be combatted in several ways. One way is to create stronger regulations and plans of action toward illegal fishing in order to give stocks a chance to recover. More aggressive fisheries management, the increased use of aquaculture, and better law enforcement of catch-governing laws could all help to reduce overfishing and restore populations. Illegal fishing and unsustainable harvesting of fish is still one of the biggest issues causing overfishing that needs to be managed more diligently in order to really save our fish populations and truly reduce overfishing.
Doyle, A. (2015) Reuters. Ocean fish numbers on ‘brink of collapse’: WWF. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-environment-oceans/ocean-fish-numbers-on-brink-of-collapse-wwf-idUSKCN0RG1JW20150916
National Geographic (2010) Overfishing. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/oceans/critical-issues-overfishing/