Northern Boundary Area Summer Chum Salmon Monitoring

The purpose of this project is to improve assessment of summer chum salmon escapements in the northern boundary area of southern Southeast Alaska. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game currently maintains an escapement index of 13 summer-run chum salmon streams in the Boundary Area that are assessed primarily through aerial survey methods. Two additional index streams were identified during the first two years of this project, including one that was suitable for conducting long-term foot and aerial surveys. These streams were added to the Southern Southeast Subregion summer chum salmon escapement index during the Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting in February 2015. ADF&G Commercial Fisheries managers have expressed concern regarding their ability to obtain reliable counts of chum salmon in some of the large mainland rivers where chum salmon may be masked by high densities of pink salmon, particularly in years of low chum salmon abundance. The primary objective of this project is to conduct helicopter surveys of summer chum salmon on currently monitored, large mainland river systems south of Wrangell and one new index stream on Prince of Wales Island. Helicopter surveys will provide surveyors improved views of these streams, validate observations of chum and pink salmon abundance, identify primary chum salmon spawning areas, and improve managers’ ability to identify chum salmon during routine aerial surveys of other index streams in the area. Additional foot and aerial surveys conducted concurrently on three smaller chum salmon index systems will similarly allow for direct comparison to aerial survey estimates. Results from these surveys will guide future chum salmon monitoring in the boundary area. In addition, we will opportunistically collect tissue samples from pink and chum salmon for Southeast Alaska genetic baselines as needed.