Assessment: Chinook, Chum, and Whitefish Ecology in the Yukon River Basin

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The Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council represents the indigenous people of the Yukon River. Currently, the Watershed Council is developing a Yukon River Watershed Management Plan. The heart of the plan will be a set of measurable water quality standards designed to protect the quality and flow of the Yukon River for the benefit of the river’s people and its fish species, on which the people rely for food and for maintenance of their traditional way of life. This summer, delegates from the Tribes and First Nations will decide whether to approve the proposed plan and recommend to the individual governments a proposed model ordinance incorporating by reference the water quality standards in the plan. If they adopt the plan, the Tribes and First Nations will then need to work together to compare existing conditions against the water quality standards, among other things. For a comparison of existing conditions and the water quality standards to be meaningful, it must be done in light of information on how people and how fish use the river. The Watershed Council has focused most of its energies so far on water quality as it relates to human and community health. Given this historical focus, the Watershed Council has relatively little technical information regarding fish ecology in the Yukon basin. This Master’s Project is designed to be the first step in building that institutional knowledge. It begins with a brief overview of the Yukon basin, of the importance of clean water, and of existing water quality. It then provides a broad summary of existing ecological information on three of the Yukon’s key subsistence fish species—chinook salmon, chum salmon, and whitefish—based on a thorough literature review. It concludes by recommending that the Watershed Council prioritize four subbasins for more localized planning efforts: the Tanana River subbasin; the Koyukuk River or Lower Yukon subbasin; the Porcupine River or Chandalar River subbasin; and the Stewart River subbasin. By being at the vanguard of the watershed planning process, the indigenous people of the Yukon basin have an opportunity to be leaders in environmental protection and tribal self-determination. As a result of their efforts, a relatively pristine landscape, highly productive fisheries, and rich human traditions could be preserved for many generations to come.





Morawetz, Jennie (2013). Assessment: Chinook, Chum, and Whitefish Ecology in the Yukon River Basin. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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