Kwethluk weir project tracks record low salmon escapement numbers

by Kyle Clayton on July 18, 2013

Weir projects, used to count salmon passage across Kuskokwim tributaries, are seeing low King escapement numbers but a dramatic decrease is affecting one river in particular.

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“I don’t know,” Fish and Game Mangaer Travis Elison says. “We’re all kind of scratching our heads about what’s going on the Kwethluk.”

That’s Fish and Game Manager Travis Elison and he says Kings aren’t the only fish not swimming up the Kwethluk. During July 14, 2011, the last time weir data was taken, 5,972 Chum Salmon passed the station. The same date this summer, only 863 Chums were counted. That’s a 592 percent decrease. Those numbers, Elison says, are way below anything they’ve seen before.

“And that’s really an outlier when you compare it to the other weir projects,” Ellison says. “We’re seeing average to above average escapements at the other weir projects for Chums.”

Salmon tend to return to the spawning grounds where they were born and the rate of straying into another river to spawn—Elison says—is low.

Elison asked Fish and Wildlife’s Steve Miller about the water level on the Kwethluk during Monday’s working group meeting. Low water makes it difficult for fish to pass the weir stations.

“It’s low but it’s not the lowest it’s been,” Miller says. “There’s plenty of water for the fish to pass where we’re at. There’s just no fish.”

The drainage wide escapement goal for King salmon is a range between 65,000-120,000. The number is based off tributary escapements and aerial surveys—and Elison says—based off current data, it’s unlikely the escapement goal will be met.

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