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Canada and Alaska sign a historic agreement to protect Yukon River Chinook salmon

Press Release

From: Fisheries and Oceans Canada

May 24 2024

Whitehorse, Yukon – Salmon are an essential species for healthy Pacific ecosystems, and an important food source for Canadians and surrounding wildlife. The species is also of great cultural significance to Indigenous communities, and is essential for recreational and commercial fisheries, as well as tourism.

To ensure the protection and recovery of Yukon River Chinook salmon, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have signed a historic seven-year agreement. Proportional to the severity of the declining abundance, the agreement commits Canada and the United States to suspend all commercial, recreational and domestic fisheries for Canadian-origin Yukon River Chinook salmon for one full lifecycle (seven years). This suspension will remain in effect regardless of run abundance.

This agreement, negotiated in close collaboration with Yukon First Nation Governments and the Salmon Sub-Committee, sets out long-term principles for conservation and recovery of Canadian-origin Chinook salmon populations in the Yukon River watershed. In addition, it commits the parties to support Traditional Knowledge research and scientific study to:

  • examine reasons for decline,
  • increase efforts to reduce bycatch of Yukon River Chinook salmon in marine fisheries,
  • provide opportunity to harvest a limited number of Chinook salmon for ceremonial purposes when abundance permits,
  • undertake habitat and stock restoration activities, and,
  • develop a long-term rebuilding plan for the stock.

The agreement also acknowledges the need to address long-term cumulative effects on Chinook salmon and their habitats, resulting from mining and hydroelectric development, and explore other factors influencing the condition and productivity of marine and freshwater environments.

The Yukon River Chinook salmon agreement demonstrates that cooperation is key to bringing about positive change. This commitment is necessary to support long-term recovery and rebuilding of Chinook in the Yukon River.

Quotes

“Chinook salmon are integral to the environment, culture and fabric of Yukon and interior/western Alaska. Undertaking international action through cooperative measures in both Canada and the United States is necessary to ensure we are all working together to protect and restore this essential species for future generations.”

The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Quick facts

  • Canadian-origin Chinook salmon inhabiting the Yukon River are the northern-most, largest and longest migrating of their species in the world.
  • Since the 1980’s, the population has declined to less than 10% of its historical average of 150,000 adult salmon originating from the Canadian portion of the watershed.
  • In recent years less than one-third the minimum number of adult Chinook salmon necessary to sustain the population have returned to their spawning grounds in Canada.
  • Fewer than 1 Chinook salmon per spawning adult is surviving to maturity.
  • Declines in abundance are attributed to a combination of historical overfishing, increased prevalence of disease and climate change and resulting effects on survival in marine and freshwater environments.
  • The Pacific Salmon Treaty, signed by Canada and the United States in 1985, provides the framework through which the two countries work together to conserve and manage Pacific salmon. In 2002 the Yukon River Salmon Agreement was formally included as Chapter 8 of the Pacific Salmon Treaty.
  • In recognition of the historically and record low numbers of Chinook salmon returning to the Canadian portion of the Yukon River watershed in 2022 and 2023, and to provide protection for remaining adult salmon migrating to their spawning grounds, the agreement requires the closure of First Nation and Tribal subsistence fisheries for Chinook salmon in years when there are fewer than 71,000 adult Chinook salmon projected to return to their Canadian spawning grounds. This approach is consistent with and respects the conservation priority objective defined in Chapter 16 of Yukon First Nation Final Agreements.
  • Pacific salmon are highly migratory. Fish originating in the rivers of one country are often subject to the fishery directives of another. A high degree of bilateral cooperation is required to manage harvest in fisheries and ensure long-term sustainability.

Associated links

Contacts

Jérémy Collard
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
Jeremy.Collard@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
613-990-7537
Media.xncr@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

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