A sockeye enhancement program has been ongoing at Tatsamenie Lake since 1990. A review of the program was funded by the Northern Fund in 2005, and in 2008, the Northern Fund began supporting the Extended Sockeye Fry Rearing Project.
The fry were originally reared in lake pens, but because of a devastating disease outbreak, the project shifted to onshore rearing systems beginning in 2009. The egg to smolt survivals of the fed fry have been variable but have ranged from 10% to 70%, or 5 to 15 times compared to wild fry, depending on fry behaviour after outplanting. Assessment of adult production from this project is ongoing. Smolt to adult survivals of the reared fry will be definitively determined with the return of the corresponding adults in the coming years, but to date, the adult production from reared fry has been lower than expected. This project continues to test a technique that has the potential of increasing production for other small scale sockeye salmon enhancement projects as well as rebuilding the Tatsamenie Lake sockeye stock in low brood year cycles.
Also at Tatsamenie Lake, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans began a smolt enumeration program in 1996, and this ran continuously from 1998 through to 2011. The Northern Fund began supporting this program in 2012, and the two programs were combined in 2015. The combination allowed the Tatsamenie Lake sockeye smolt mark-recapture project to extend beyond its previous end date of June 30, through to the second week of September. This provides a more accurate smolt population estimate as well as increased precision of the estimated enhanced sockeye survival and production. This also allows for monitoring of potential early out-migration of the reared fry.
The Thermal Mark Laboratory at the ADF&G Mark, Tag and Age (MTA) Laboratory is responsible for examining sockeye salmon otoliths recovered from commercial fisheries in southeast Alaska for thermal marks indicating hatchery origin, and for making the associated data available to biologists for management of sockeye from the transboundary Taku and Stikine Rivers.
Weir counts have been made on the Klukshu River, part of the Alsek River system, by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in co-operation with the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, since 1976. A mark-and-recapture program ran from 2000 to 2004, and in 2005 and 2006, the Alsek sockeye population was estimated using tissue sample and catch information from the commercial sockeye fishery in Dry Bay as well as the weir counts. By recommendation by the Northern Fund Committee in 2008, a statistically valid sampling strategy that would provide the foundation for reconstructing sockeye and Chinook returns to the Alsek River was completed. Based on this model, it was proposed that funding be provided to analyze sockeye tissue samples collected in the commercial sockeye fishery in Dry Bay (up to 750 per season), to reconstruct the Alsek sockeye runs as described in Gazey’s analysis.
Since 1976, weir counts have been made on the Klukshu River, part of the Alsek River system, by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in co-operation with the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation. In 2007, the weir counts at Klukshu, in conjunction with Chinook catches from the test fishery at Dry Bay, were used to estimate the Alsek Chinook population. The results were encouraging, and by recommendation by the Northern Fund Committee in 2008, a statistically valid sampling strategy that would provide the foundation for reconstructing the Chinook return to the Alsek River was completed. Based on this model, it was proposed that funding be provided to analyze Chinook tissue samples collected in the commercial sockeye fishery in Dry Bay (up to 500 per season), to reconstruct the Alsek Chinook runs as described in Gazey’s analysis. The project was carried out successfully in 2014, but there has not been enough fish in 2015 and 2016.