The Department of State and the Department of Commerce announced today that U.S. and Canadian negotiators have reached agreement on a comprehensive accord to resolve long-standing differences over the conservation and management of Pacific salmon.
The agreement establishes new fishing regimes under the 1985 Pacific Salmon Treaty to protect and rebuild salmon stocks while ensuring fair sharing of harvest opportunities by fishermen of both countries. It also establishes two bilaterally-managed regional funds to improve fisheries management and includes provisions to enhance bilateral scientific cooperation. The agreement represents a critical step in the Administration's long-term strategy for restoring salmon in the Pacific Northwest.
In a Joint Statement issued today, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy said: "The agreement represents a victory for all those on both sides of the border interested in salmon conservation and the long-term viability of our salmon industries."
The U.S. negotiating team, led by U.S. Negotiator Jim Pipkin in coordination with Senior White House Representative Lloyd Cutler, included representatives of the Governors of Alaska, Washington, and Oregon, and 24 Indian tribes. Formal approval of the agreement by the U.S. and Canadian governments is expected in the near future.
"This landmark agreement demonstrates that states, tribes and nations can all work together to protect and restore a shared resource vital to both our environment and our economies," said Cutler. "President Clinton and Vice President Gore are firmly committed to bringing back the salmon and, on their behalf, I thank the Governors, the tribal leaders, and our partners in Canada for joining us in this critical effort."
Under the new agreement, fixed harvest quotas will be replaced by "abundance-based" regimes that adjust harvest levels for salmon stocks according to their relative abundance. Harvest levels will decline when stocks are low so they can recover, and will rise when stocks are again plentiful. The new regimes will be in effect for 10 to 12 years, depending on the fishery.
"This agreement puts the fish first," said Pipkin. "It represents a pragmatic approach to implementing the principles of the Pacific Salmon Treaty that will bring stability to salmon management, improve scientific understanding, and promote cooperation over conflict."
For the United States, the agreement represents a major pillar of a comprehensive strategy to restore Pacific Northwest salmon. Others include the $100 million Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery fund proposed by the President to support state and local efforts to restore healthy stream systems coastwide, and major efforts under way to improve salmon survival in hydropower system of the Columbia and Snake rivers.
"Achieving this historic accord with our Canadian neighbors underscores our long-term commitment to salmon recovery," said Secretary of Commerce William Daley. "Having addressed harvest in a way that puts conservation first, we can now move forward with efforts to rebuild habitat, modernize hatchery practices, and provide the water flows needed to ensure that salmon not only survive but thrive. Each of these is critical to both the environmental and the economic health of the Pacific Northwest."
In addition to new harvest regimes, the agreement establishes two regional funds - a Northern Fund covering Alaska and northern and central British Columbia, and a Southern Fund covering southern British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and the Snake River basin in Idaho. The funds, to be managed jointly by the United States and Canada, would address science, restoration and enhancement needs relating to salmon production. The United States has committed to seek $75 million for the Northern Fund and $65 million for the Southern Fund.
"The Administration will work closely with Congress to ensure that we can provide the resources needed to undertake these vital recovery efforts," said Cutler. "We are confident that there will be strong bipartisan support to honor this commitment."
The agreement also provides for scientific cooperation and institutional changes at the Pacific Salmon Commission - the body established by the two countries to implement fisheries management under the Treaty. In addition, it calls for cooperation on habitat restoration and identification of non-fishing factors that affect the survival and optimal production of salmon.
The agreement settles disputes going back nearly a century over the harvest and conservation of salmon that range along the west coasts of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and southeast Alaska. The Pacific Salmon Treaty of 1985 sought to resolve these disputes by setting harvest levels for "intercepting" fisheries - salmon that spawn in the waters of one country but are harvested by fishermen from the other country - but differences arose over its interpretation.
Although attempts to reach a new comprehensive accord by the two governments in the last several years were unsuccessful, elements developed by the U.S. and Canadian stakeholders and others in these processes provided an important basis for this year's negotiations leading to the long-term agreement announced today.