Pacific Salmon Treaty Negotiators Reach Agreement

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(Juneau) – 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 resources.”

For Chinook salmon, the most complex of the species covered under the treaty due to the geographic scope of their migration, the revised agreement:

maintains the fundamentals of the abundance–based 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 fisheries. 

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 of concern.

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 in 2014.

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.

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.