Week 3

Readings for January 26th

View Jan’s presentation by clicking below:


Here is some information on the 3 readings as provided by Jan Conitz of ADF&G who will be joining us on the 26th.  .

  1. Michael Carey — A social history of Yukon River fisheries prior to statehood. Download HERE  .  The important information from this paper would be the nature and interaction of subsistence and commercial fisheries and how it changed during the period from the late 1800s until Alaska statehood. What were differences in lifestyles, fishing methods, species, gear in different regions of the Yukon River? When and why were commercial fisheries introduced and maintained in different parts of the river? What was the relative importance of Chinook salmon to other species? Students should not get bogged down in the details of how many fish were caught or how many cases of salmon were packed in different years, but instead look at the changes over time, and geographic differences in harvest patterns.
  1. Charles Gilbert and Henry O’Malley — Investigation of the salmon fisheries of the Yukon River. Download HERE. You do  not  need to read through this whole paper. The work of Gilbert and O’Malley is referred to in the Carey paper. Student’s should  focus should be on the particular problem addressed by Gilbert and O’Malley in the period around 1919-1920, and to place their work in the context of the longer history of Yukon fisheries provided by Carey.
  1. Al Von Finster and Donald Reid — Potential impacts and risks of proposed next generation hydroelectric dams on fish and fish habitat in Yukon waters.  Download HERE This report is new to me and others and appears to be a critique of the review and assessment process for this dam scoping work being conducted by the government of Yukon Territory. We saw a presentation about the scoping work during the December 2015 Panel meeting that was much less critical than this document. For the purposes of this class, students should focus on the assessment of potential impacts, risks, and mitigation, to salmon, and on the role of the Yukon River Panel in protecting salmon and habitat in YT.

Reading topics and questions related to the Carey paper


  1. Note Native fishing methods and gear types observed by early white travelers in the area (mostly p. 1-4) before the advent of commercial harvest and trade.


  1. Introduction of “local’ commercial fisheries on the Yukon River started during the Klondike gold rush (although indigenous people on the river had presumably always engaged in barter and trade of salmon). Fish wheels were introduced then, which were much more efficient at capturing large numbers of salmon (p. 5-7 and elsewhere). Two important aspects of these operations are, a) that they served to supply both indigenous (Native) and immigrant (white) populations with food and cash income, and b) that a large part of this commercial harvest went to feed sled dogs, which were the primary means of transportation in the area until airplanes began to come in during the 1930s. Harvesting salmon (chums, mainly) to feed sled dogs continues to be important to this day, though they are of course no longer used for primary transport. Note also the priority of chum salmon over Chinook or king salmon throughout the early commercial period (p. 18-19 and elsewhere).


  1. What was the Carlisle Cannery issue (starting on p. 9-11, also see the Gilbert and O’Malley paper)? How did the Carlisle operations differ from the commercial fishing operations that existed before (and continued afterwards)?


  1. Who were Gilbert and O’Malley (starting on p. 17)? Why were they were referred to as “the competent investigators?’ What was the result of their investigation in 1920?


  1. After the federal Bureau of Fisheries closed commercial fishing “for export’ on the Yukon River in 1924, they decided to re-open it on a more limited basis in 1932. How did they justify this, and what kinds of controls were used (starting p. 39)?


  1. What was federal Inspector C. Townsend’s conclusion about fishery policy for the Yukon River at the end of his career (p. 43-44)? Consider these recommendations, made in 1941, in comparison with current status and fishery policy on the Yukon.


General questions for consideration during this and other discussions of Yukon River salmon fisheries


  1. What is and has been the general economy of the Yukon area, and other means to earn a livelihood (both subsistence and commercial)? How important is the opportunity to earn cash income from commercial fishing? How do these factors differ by region in the Yukon River drainage? How do these factors affect fishing and fishing policy? What aspects of fisheries policy are people most concerned about in the different regions?


  1. Even after the Carlisle issue and investigation in 1918-1920, there have been sporadic or sustained catches of large numbers of Chinook salmon in the lower Yukon River. There have also been closures or low harvests in a number of years, including recently, mainly in response to low run sizes. Have Chinook salmon harvests overall been sustainable on the Yukon River?


  1. Were federal regulations and oversight of the Yukon River fisheries effective during the early commercial period? What was most lacking?

Here is a guide for the other report for students in preparation for class next Thursday, the Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada report,Potential Impacts and Risks of Proposed Next Generation Hydroelectric Dams on Fish and Fish Habitat in Yukon Waters.



This report covers a large range of potential issues, and addresses all major fish species present in the areas proposed for potential dam sites. Read the Executive Summary (p. 2-6), and Sections 1, 2, 3, and 4.1. Beyond that you can use the table of contents to look up specific information about salmon and salmon habitat. For this class, it is sufficient to focus only on potential impact to anadramous fish — not that we shouldn’t be paying attention to freshwater fish as biologists — but because we will be approaching this topic from the perspective of the Yukon River Panel, that body only deals with anadromous fish that move across the US-Canada border.


By the authors’ admission, a lot of the information in this report is quite general because the proposals so far lack detail. Part of the problem, the authors say, is that the site selection will occur first, before the public has the opportunity to know exactly what impacts and risks would be presented by a dam at any of the sites.  It is important to recognize the implied frustration of the authors at what they seem to view as a backwards process for public review, and their concerns about conflict of interest in the same government potentially having both ownership and regulatory authority over a dam. If the situation is frustrating for Canadian citizens, it is even more difficult for concerned US citizens. Matters of Canadian policy and process can’t be directly addressed by US citizens, and yet when the issues affect resources managed under the Yukon River Salmon Agreement (and other international agreements), US parties do have the right and responsibility to address them. It is very challenging for US members of the Yukon River Panel to know when and how to address issues like this emerging one of the dam proposals within the Panel process.


Questions for reading and discussion


  1. What specific government entity has proposed a new hydroelectic dam in the Yukon Territory and is conducting the scoping and site selection process? How does this entity interact with the Yukon River Panel, if at all? (Exec Summary)


  1. Where (what tributaries) are on the short list of 10 sites being considered? Are all of them tributaries of the Yukon River? (p. 8 and Figure 1)


  1. What 3 international agreements could be brought to bear on the issue of a dam on a tributary of the Yukon River? (p. 6)


  1. What are the regulatory requirements (Canadian or international laws) that would have to be satisfied?


  1. What provisions in the Yukon River Salmon Agreement could be used to address risks and impacts to salmon? (p. 13-14)


  1. Note the physical characteristics of the upper Yukon River environment described in Section 2.2. Which characteristics are more and less predictable, and consider how these characteristics could be altered by a dam.


  1. What are the 3 anadromous fish species that would be affected by a dam in the proposed sites?


  1. What is the purpose of fish habitat models, as described in Section 3.3 (p. 26-29)? Do you think the existing models, and data upon which they are based, are adequate to assess the potential impact of a dam to salmon and salmon habitat in the proposed areas?


  1. How much Chinook salmon habitat could be lost to one of the proposed dams? (p. 44-45; also see Appendix C for listing and references on known habitat sites) What about chum salmon — is the extent of potential habitat loss well known for this species?


  1. What are some downstream effects of a dam on the physical habitat and how could these affect salmon? Consider both migrating or spawning adults and migrating or rearing juveniles. Sometimes, effects of a dam make the physical environment more erratic and unpredictable. What can happen on the other hand, if a dam regulates the river flow such that it becomes more uniform than it was without the dam?


  1. What is the pertinent risk associated with mercury, with respect to fish? (p. 53)


  1. North American society has a long history of experience with trying to mitigate against salmon migration blockage by dams on rivers in British Columbia and the lower 48 US states, as well as the Whitehorse dam on the Yukon River. What are some of the major problems and lessons learned? How effective are the various mitigation measures that have been used? (p. 54-58)


  1. Is artifical propagation a reasonable form of mitigation when fish migration is blocked by a dam? How does it work and what are some potential issues? (p. 55)


For the class on January 26

Think about how you would address any or all of these issues if you were a member of the Yukon River Panel or Joint Technical Committee, on the US side. What conditions, or concessions, would you expect from the Canadians if they did plan to go through with a dam on a Yukon River tributary?



View Stephanie’s  presentation  by clicking below:


Download Hilsinger et al. 2009 HERE


493 Fish UX1 (200, 400, 600)