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NW Fishletter #386, Oct. 2, 2018

[2] New 10-Year Pacific Salmon Treaty Awaits Approval

Reduced catch for Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed Chinook salmon in the Pacific Northwest is being promoted as one of the most important changes in the proposed new 10-year Pacific Salmon Treaty, which was approved by an international commission and is now awaiting approval by the United States and Canada.

New limits on Chinook catches by fishermen in both countries is just one of many proposed changes to the existing treaty contained in the recommendation, said John Field, executive secretary for the Pacific Salmon Commission.

The new treaty would also cover management agreements on the sharing and conservation of Pacific pink, coho, sockeye and chum salmon.

The 16-member Commission, which includes four members and four alternatives from both the United States and Canada, announced the new agreement on Sept. 17 after two years of extensive negotiations. If adopted, this will be the third major revision to the treaty since it was originally signed in 1985, and would be in force from 2019 through 2028.

The updated treaty would set up a framework for cooperation on management of Pacific salmon to prevent overfishing, allow for conservation, and "ensure that both countries receive benefits equal to the production of salmon originating in their waters," according to the Commission's website. It covers a territory from Cape Falcon, Ore., to southeast Alaska. The current treaty expires on Dec. 31.

Field said each government conducted domestic consultations leading up to the final agreement, with its own processes for consultation with stakeholders. He said Canada will translate the document into French, and each government will look at the proposals, make sure they comport with national laws and use formal diplomatic channels to proceed toward ratification. Field said the recommendation is not being released to the public.

In addition to the Commission's news release, Oregon, Washington and Alaska all put out statements about the new treaty, but none has released the document. However, they say Canada has agreed to reduce its catches of ESA-listed Chinook by up to 12.5 percent when poor Chinook returns are expected, and that Alaska will reduce its catch by up to 7.5 percent.

Alaska's news release didn't specifically mention Chinook, but said that every participating jurisdiction accepted a reduction in the number of fish that can be harvested, and that Oregon and Washington will see reductions ranging from 5 to 15 percent.

"I regret the reduction of even one salmon available to Alaskans for harvest," Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said in the release. "However, this treaty agreement protects the health and sustainability of our salmon stocks and guarantees Alaska's ability to directly manage our fisheries without federal interference."

By contrast, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a separate release, "This step comes at a crucial time as we continue to see declines in Chinook salmon populations around Puget Sound. As we work with our international partners to send more fish into our waters, it becomes even more crucial that state leaders do what's necessary to protect and restore habitat and address the dire needs of these fish."

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown added, in that state's release, "I praise the efforts of the joint U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Commission for approving strong recommendations to the Pacific Salmon Treaty. Successful updates to the Treaty through 2028 will help ensure long term sustainable and healthy salmon populations that are vital to the people of the Pacific Northwest, and to the entire ecosystem."

Alaska also noted that the new treaty language would increase harvests proportionately when abundance increases, and praised its new accountability measures.

The new limits on Chinook catch will include stocks from Puget Sound and the Columbia River; and as a result of the changes, abundances of several Chinook stocks returning to Oregon waters are expected to increase, Oregon said. "The agreement also includes provisions in other west coast fisheries to ensure that harvests remain strongly tied to stock conservation objectives," the news release said.

Commission Executive Secretary Field said a key chapter in the treaty covering the Fraser River is now undergoing its own separate negotiations, and that under the Commission's recommendation, it would remain in effect until those negotiations are completed and the update is adopted by the U.S. and Canada.

Field said representatives on the Commission include Canada's First Nations, Pacific Northwest Tribes, fishermen, states and other interests.

"It was gratifying to know throughout the negotiations that conservation of coast-wide salmon stocks was the highest priority of every commissioner," Commission Chair Bob Turner, who represents NOAA Fisheries, said in a release.

Vice Chair Rebecca Reid, Canada's regional director general of fisheries and oceans for the Pacific region, added, "I'm pleased the Commission was able to bring forward this recommendation, and that the parties were able to reach an agreement that we feel will support the conservation and long-term sustainability of this important resource." -K.C. Mehaffey

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Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: K.C. Mehaffey
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