Pacific Salmon Treaty: Agreement
on 10-year extension of fishery arrangements announced
calls the reissuing "a missed opportunity"
May 22, 2008
The Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) today announced an agreement
on a ten-year extension of fishery arrangements under the Pacific
Salmon Treaty. The agreement addresses a number of salmon fisheries
in Southeast Alaska, including those near the British Columbia/Alaska
border and on several rivers that cross between the two countries.
The Pacific Salmon Treaty,
first signed in 1985, is a bilateral agreement under which the
U.S. and Canada co-operate on management, research and enhancement
of Pacific salmon that swim through the waters of both countries.
Under the treaty, fishery arrangements put in place in 1999 expire
at the end of December, 2008.
"Ten years ago, the commission had a much more difficult
time reaching agreement, and the final negotiations had to be
conducted at a government-to-government level," David Bedford,
Alaska's representative on the PSC, said. "This time, the
Commissioners, along with stakeholders and fisheries management
staff up and down the coast, worked hard to conclude an agreement
within the Commission process, and this ensured participation
by the state and the affected people, organizations and communities."
"Throughout nearly two years of negotiations, the State
of Alaska worked in close coordination with fishery representatives,"
he continued. "While we had to make some sacrifices to reach
this agreement, we were convinced that this is a responsible
agreement that provides stability for our fisheries and helps
ensure the long-term health and sustainability of shared salmon
For Chinook salmon, the most complex of the species covered under
the treaty due to the geographic scope of their migration, the
- maintains the fundamentals
of the abundancebased management system established in 1999,
which mandates that harvests vary up and down with productivity
of the stocks, and has provided substantial benefits to Alaska
- recognizes that Chinook stocks
in the area covered by the treaty vary in status with many being
healthy and abundant while others are considered to be stocks
- recognizes the depressed status
of a number of stocks originating in southern B.C. and the U.S.
Pacific Northwest (some of which are listed under the U.S. Endangered
Species Act), and reduces the allowable Chinook catch levels
for fisheries in in fisheries off the west coast of Vancouver
Island in B.C. by 30%, and in Southeast Alaska by 15%.
- requires the Commission to
review the need for the continuation of these levels of reduction
- contains provisions to fund
and conduct important programs to obtain additional information
critical to conservation and fisheries management which will
be of value in the 2014 review. The funding includes $10 million
over 5 years to better account for salmon escapement and $15
million for improvements in fishery monitoring.
"The catch reduction is
a tough position for us to accept," said Bedford, "but
those of us who have been working hard on these talks, including
representatives of southeast Alaskan fishing interests, recognized
that there are expressed conservation concerns for a number of
stocks and that reaching an agreement that mandates additional
monitoring and analysis of these stocks should help answer questions
about their status and significantly contribute to the review
of the reduction that will take place in 2014."
For other Alaskan fisheries covered by the Treaty, the agreement
revises fishery provisions for terminal area and in-river sockeye,
coho, and Chinook fisheries on the Stikine, Taku, and Alsek rivers.
The agreement builds upon the current abundance-based management
system for conservation and harvest sharing, provides for additional
harvest opportunities for sockeye through responsible stock enhancement
on the Taku and Stikine rivers, and addresses possible future
opportunities for fisheries on the Alsek River after coordinated
stock assessment work.
For relevant fisheries in the boundary area between northern
British Columbia and southern Southeast Alaska, negotiators recognized
that the fishery arrangements established in 1999 are working
well, and the new agreement extends those terms for another ten
years. Key provisions in this area relate to the catch ceilings
established for some B.C.-bound sockeye stocks harvested in the
commercial seine fishery near Noyes Island and the commercial
gillnet fishery at Tree Point.
However, Trout Unlimited, America's
largest salmon and trout conservation organization based in Juneau,
Alaska and Portland, Oregon , today called the reissuing of the
Pacific Salmon Treaty between Canada and the U.S. "a missed
opportunity" to better ensure healthy, sustainable salmon
fisheries for the future that places too heavy a burden on salmon
fishermen and coastal fishing communities. The Pacific Salmon
Treaty, last renewed in 1999, governs the commercial harvest
of Pacific salmon from the Pacific Northwest up through Southeast
The Treaty, negotiated by Commissioners from the U.S. and Canada,
will take effect in 2009. Trout Unlimited says that once implemented,
the new Treaty will cut harvest of Chinook salmon for Southeast
Alaska fishermen by 15 percent, and will also cut Canadian Chinook
fishing off the West Coast of Vancouver Island by 30 percent.
Although some of the toughest and most contentious negotiations
circled around Chinook harvest, the Commissioners negotiated
other shared fisheries as well, including coho and Transboundary
River stocks. Other major provisions in the 2008 Treaty include
funding from the U.S. to help Canada buy out salmon fishing licenses
in British Columbia, as well as additional funding for improving
data and analysis of Canadian and U.S. salmon stocks.
Considering that both Parties were unable to reach an agreement
in the early-mid 90's - now referred to as the "Salmon Wars,"
which at one point led to the blockade of an Alaskan ferry by
angry Canadian fishermen - it was no small feat for the Commissioners
to reach an agreement this time around, especially given the
growing number of ESA-listed Chinook stocks and this season's
West Coast fishery closures.
Despite that, Trout Unlimited still believes it's critical for
the Treaty to be a more comprehensive and holistic salmon management
tool, focusing not just on the marine stage of the salmon life
cycle, but the freshwater as well.
"From the outset, we've urged the Commission to use this
once-in-a-decade opportunity to transform the Treaty from simply
an allocation template into a living, long-term strategy to protect
Pacific salmon and their ecosystems up and down the coast,"
said Jeff Curtis, Senior Policy Advisor for Trout Unlimited.
"Unfortunately it appears that many of our recommendations
for the use of better science, a real focus on habitat and more
flexibility to adjust to ever-changing conditions in the ocean
fell by the wayside in favor of the old, familiar regimes that
ignore many of the problems and pit fishermen from different
regions and different constituencies against one another."
"It's fair to ask fishermen to be accountable, and U.S.
and Canadian fishermen have proved time and again they're willing,
but it's an unfair and questionable strategy to lock onto the
very end of the salmon life cycle and ignore all of the other
links in the chain," said Tim Bristol, Alaska Director of
Trout Unlimited. "Unfortunately we're seeing that up and
down the coast, from the Sacramento to the Columbia to Southeast
Alaska. Unless and until fishery managers and lawmakers show
the willingness to factor in habitat loss, water quality and
quantity, passage problems at dams, ocean cycles and myriad other
factors impacting salmon before they ever even see a hook, and
then show the courage to act on them, we'll continue to see fighting
over an ever-shrinking pie until it's gone."
The Pacific Salmon Commission action is a recommendation to the
U.S. and Canadian governments for formal approval. There are
domestic processes in the respective countries that will take
place in ensuing months, with the goal of having the revised
fishery arrangements in place by January 1, 2009. In the U.S.,
the process for final approval by the State Department includes
analysis by the National Marine Fisheries Service that the fishery
arrangements meet Endangered Species Act requirements.
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