Chinook salmon returns are currently low on the Yukon River. The declines in subsistence and commercial harvest threaten community welfare as sources of food and income are reduced or eliminated. A lack of information about salmon biology and the Yukon River Salmon Agreement, and the perpetuation of misinformation, leads to a lack of understanding of management decisions and the need for conservation. Multiple issues face Yukon River salmon in the marine environment, including offshore aquaculture and management of federal fisheries. These actions pose significant threats to Yukon River salmon singularly and collectively. In addition, climate change is impacting Yukon River salmon in the marine and in-river environment. Limited information is available about how climate change is affecting Yukon River salmon. Traditional knowledge is being lost as the holders of this knowledge pass away. Alternate economic opportunities for cash income are limited in Yukon River communities, causing hardship in years when commercial salmon fisheries are limited. Alternate food sources to provide substitutes for salmon in time of shortage have not been fully developed.
How Pick.Click.Give. makes a difference
For the first time, fishermen from the entire length of the Yukon River were sitting together at one table, and building relationships with each other. With an initial decline in the salmon runs in the late 1980s, it became clear that more knowledge was needed about what was happening with the salmon populations. The stakeholders are the Alaska residents of the 49 rural communities of the Yukon River watershed, which includes over 13,000 people, excluding the urban area of Fairbanks. YRDFA is a nonprofit that works on a river-wide basis along the Yukon River on fisheries and cultural issues. YRDFA works to support the fisheries that help the Yukon River’s Alaska Native communities; they depend on salmon for their food, culture, and income in a mixed cash economy of rural Alaska. People in this region have relied on salmon for generations and are at risk for of losing these salmon fisheries. This is a large statewide issue that rural Alaska, Alaska Natives, and subsistence users are addressing and especially in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region where salmon runs have been particularly low. YRDFA’s work addresses is a regional decline in salmon that is reaching crisis proportions. While there are many real challenges being faced by people along the Yukon River such as not having enough salmon to eat, buying store based nutritionally deficient and expensive foods, being on unemployment, and declining community welfare leading to social problems there is also the opportunity to work with people along the Yukon River that are motivated to better their communities. The opportunity is to bring the stakeholders together, beginning with those who live in the watershed, to create and implement a plan for rebuilding the sustainable health of the salmon runs. Our opportunity is to continue to bring the indigenous stakeholders together with the state, federal and other stakeholders into a cooperative effort to restore the health of our region’s wild salmon runs using an approach based on both western and traditional sciences while taking advantage of technological opportunities to aid in salmon management. Our history of being the acknowledged convener of salmon stakeholders in the watershed indicates that we are positioned to continue to do this work.