Federal Subsistence Fisheries Management on the Yukon River
Importance of the subsistence fishery
Salmon returning to the Yukon River and its tributaries have been a vital food source for Native Alaskans in northern Alaska for thousands of years. Today, this river continues to support a subsistence fishery that provides cultural, spiritual and economic sustenance to more than 1,500 households in over 60 communities.
Managing Fisheries for Subsistence Use
Understanding the critical importance of Alaska’s fisheries to subsistence users, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980, contains language requiring that natural and healthy fish populations be maintained for subsistence use by rural Alaskan residents.
Under ANILCA, the federal government began managing subsistence hunting and trapping on federal lands in 1990. The Federal Subsistence Management Program expanded to include fisheries on Federal Conservation System Units in October, 1999. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was designated the lead federal agency for management of subsistence fisheries on the Yukon River, along with participation by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the National Forest Service.
Information on salmon returns collected from fishery monitoring projects help federal and state fisheries managers monitor salmon escapement, and determine subsistence and commercial fishing periods throughout the season.
Service biologists, Refuge Information Technicians, and contract employees work with rural residents to monitor the in-season harvest of salmon and determine if subsistence needs are being met in Yukon River communities.
Fisheries Monitoring Projects
(Data Series Reports for each project are available here)
Chandalar River Sonar Project
The Chandalar River is a large tributary of the upper Yukon River in interior Alaska and supports one of the largest runs of fall chum salmon in the Yukon River drainage. Between 1995 and 2006, we used sonar technology to estimate the abundance of fall chum salmon returning to spawn. In 2007, we began using a newer technology—Dual Frequency Identification Sonar (DIDSON)—to help gather the most accurate daily in-season counts and total fish passage estimates. This data helps managers make informed decisions and helps them better evaluate past decisions and actions. Information collected as part of this project is becoming increasingly important as stressors such as climate change, disease, selective harvest, and overall demand on the fisheries and resources in the Yukon River drainage continue to increase.
Andreafsky River Weir Project
The Andreafsky River, a tributary of the Yukon River, supports one of the largest Chinook salmon and the second largest summer chum salmon returns in the Yukon River drainage. A resistance board weir installed on the East Fork of the Andreafsky River is used to collect abundance, run timing, and biological data from Chinook, summer chum, coho, and pink salmon. The Andreafsky River weir is one of the longest-running spawning escapement projects in the Yukon River drainage and is the only spawning escapement project in the lower river. This project allows managers to evaluate escapement goals; analyze trends in salmon abundance, size (length), age, and the male/female ratio; formulate run projections; determine harvest allocations; monitor long-term changes associated with climate change, harvest fluctuations, diseases, and other stressors; and better understand other fish species found in the area.
The camp associated with the weir is used for community outreach and education efforts. We are continually trying to improve our project on the East Fork, and encourage visitors; if you are in the area stop by and say “Hello”.
Gisasa River Weir Project
The Gisasa River, located within the Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge in north-central Interior Alaska, is a tributary of the Koyukuk River. A resistance board weir is used to collect information on abundance, run timing, and biology of returning adult Chinook and summer chum salmon in the Gisasa River. This project has produced 17 years of data enabling analyses of trends in population status, size, length, age, and gender composition of the run, developing future run projections, and setting and evaluating harvest and escapement goals and allocations. The information collected at the Gisasa River weir is vital to the difficult task of managing the complex mixed-stock subsistence and commercial salmon fisheries in the Yukon River.
Yukon River Salmon Research and Management Fund
The Yukon River Salmon Research and Management Fund (R&M) was established through the Yukon River Salmon Agreement of 2001 and is intended to improve the understanding and health of Yukon River salmon stocks within Alaska.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers these funds through financial assistance on a competitive basis for projects that advance the scientific community’s understanding and management of Alaskan Yukon River salmon, with a priority toward Chinook and fall chum salmon. Each year, approximately $400,000 is awarded to projects that are submitted to and approved by the U.S. Delegation of the Yukon River Panel.
View reports of projects funded through R&M in the past.
For further details regarding the R&M fund see the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance website. To learn more about the Yukon River Panel, the Yukon River Salmon Agreement, and for project ideas related to Yukon River salmon stocks originating in Canada, see the Yukon River Panel’s website and the Restoration and Enhancement Fund at http://yukonriverpanel.com/salmon/.
View the 2012 Request for Proposals
The call for proposals goes out in early September at www.grants.gov. To be added to the Yukon River Salmon Research and Management Fund mailing list contact firstname.lastname@example.org (907) 456-0418.
Other relevant funding opportunities within this geographic region in Alaska:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Subsistence Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Conservation Assistance Programs
Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative
Northwest Interior Forest Landscape Conservation Cooperative
Yukon River Subsistence Fisheries - Who We Are
Fred Bue, Branch Chief
Aaron Martin, Supervisory Fish Biologist
Gerald Maschmann, Fish Biologist
Jeff Melegari, Fish Biologist
Jeremy Mears, Fish Biologist
Jeremy Carlson, Permanent Biological Science Technician