Canada, Alaska sign 7-year agreement on Yukon River salmon recovery

A photo of the Yukon River.
An agreement between Canada and Alaska is aimed at rebuilding king salmon stocks in the Yukon River | Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/Pecold
6 Min

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) have signed a seven-year agreement on rebuilding king salmon stocks in the Yukon River drainage.

Under the agreement, commercial, sport, domestic, and personal use king salmon fisheries will be suspended along the Yukon River and its Canadian tributaries for seven years – the equivalent of the king salmon life cycle.

“After hearing from people living along the river, it is time to look beyond single-year management,” ADFG Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang said in a statement.

The agreement allows for a limited harvest for cultural and ceremonial purposes.

“During the period of rebuilding we must take measures to preserve the culture and traditions of people living along the river,” DFO Senior Director Steve Gotch said. “This agreement allows both Alaska and Canada to accommodate a limited harvest for ceremonial purposes to occur in accordance with local traditional practices.”

The two governments have also directed the Yukon Panel, a group made up of stakeholders living along the Yukon, to develop a king salmon recovery plan.

“The people living along the Yukon River are best poised to help develop the principles and objectives within the recovery plan,” Gotch said. “Traditional knowledge and western science will guide the path forward.”

The Alaska Yukon River salmon fisheries were closed in 2021 and 2022 to allow the stocks to recover, but levels remain historically low. In October 2023, the U.S. Commerce Department declared a disaster for the Alaska Yukon River salmon fisheries.

“Although all salmon fishing was closed on the Yukon River in 2021 and 2022 and heavily restricted/closed in 2020, the 2022 total number of chinook salmon returning to the Yukon River was estimated to be the lowest on record,” Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy said in a 2022 letter seeking federal assistance. “The 2022 summer chum salmon run was less than the minimum escapement goal and was the fourth lowest on record. Similarly, the minimum escapement goal for fall chum salmon is unlikely to be met.”

In Janurary, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued USD 1.6 million (EUR 1.5 million) to compensate for the 2022 Alaska Yukon River salmon fisheries.

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