It will be another week or so before management officials are able to provide a forecast of how strong the run of chinook salmon will be into the Yukon.
Fishery manager Mary Ellen Jarvis of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans acknowledged this morning the information coming out of Alaska is indicating the strongest run in 12 years.
Until there is a much larger portion of the run past the sonar counter just below the Yukon-Alaska border at Eagle, Alaska, she said, it’s difficult to predict the strength of the run into the Yukon with any great degree of confidence.
“There is not enough information to do a forecast right now,” she said. “It’s too early.”
Jarvis said the management plan is still calling for a precautionary approach to the aboriginal food fishery until there is a better idea of what is coming across the border.
As a rule of thumb, fish managers on both sides of the border estimate that 50 per cent of the chinook salmon that enter the river for the annual migration are of Yukon origin.
While the count at the Pilot Station sonar near the mouth was at 258,652 chinook as of midnight last night, Jarvis said, there are uncertainties that must be taken into consideration.
Alaska, for instance, has liberalized restrictions on its subsistence fishery this year because of the strength of the run, Jarvis pointed out.
She also emphasized that First Nations have implemented conservative management plans in attempts to rebuild the chinook stocks that have declined significantly since the 1990s and early 2000s.
As of midnight, the Eagle sonar had recorded 19,797 chinook, of which 3,008 were counted Sunday.
The peak of the run at the mouth occurred on June 21, when the Pilot Station sonar recorded 25,702 chinook. It counted 271 Sunday, as the run of chinook at the mouth is all but over.
There has been no allowance for commercial fishing on either side of the border in recent years because of the diminished runs.
Meanwhile, staff at the Whitehorse fish ladder are gearing up for the upcoming return of chinook.
Last year, the first two chinook, a male and a female, went up the ladder on July 23.