Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pacific Salmon Treaty talks

Pacific Salmon Treaty

The negotiations have begun in earnest. SEAS members on the Northern Panel Mr. John Carle, Mr. Mitch Eide and PSC Alternate Commissioner Jim Bacon were present this past week in Vancouver along with your Executive Director.

At the Vancouver meetings there were no disagreements between Canada and the US on a rollover of the Tree Point driftnet and Noyes Island purse seine annexes. The US has underharvested in both fisheries since the signing of the Treaty in 1999, and in the future these fisheries have shown no inclination to the same harvest levels we achieved in the first 15 years of this Treaty.

Part of this is atttributable to the decreased participation in both US fleets: the Noyes Island boat days are somewhere near half of the pre-1999 negotiations while the Tree Point fleet has lost nearly 40% of their pre-1999 fleet. Some of this displacement is fewer overall boats in the entire SE region andsome has to do with the success of our enhancement programs in the rest of the SE region, which has consequently drawn boats away from the Boundary Area.

Naturally there are yet unresolved issues with Chinook salmon. There needs to be some education on King salmon, both in the US generally and especially within the NW region. Our Chinook fishery is based upon healthy stocks. In fact, since the signing of the Treaty annexes in 1999, we have seen 2 ( maybe 3) of the alltime high Chinook abundances since 1948 of the "far north migrating" complex.

Past ADFG CommFish Director and current Washington State Fish and Wildlife (since 1998) Director Jeffrey Koenings has been on record touting the excellent health of these "far north migrating" chinook salmon that we harvest in Alaska. Looking back at the record, Mr. Koenings made this case in the late 90's, when the "far north migrating" Chinook complex was at about half the abundance of what it has been in the past 4 or 5 years.

So, to put it otherwise, there are twice as many Chinook now than there were when Mr. Koenings stated that our harvest of Chinook wasn't a problem for the lower 48. He also emphasized that these stocks that we harvest in Alaska needed to be considered as separate from the Puget Sound stocks and other Chinook stocks that aren't harvested in great numbers in Alaska. Nonetheless, Chinook will be an issue to be resolved along with the Transboundary Rivers, Taku and Stikine, which are still on the docket to be negotiated.

The new representatives on the TBR panel from Canada seem to be having a difficult time within their negotiating team. At the end of the day, all of us represent our government's positions and there needs to be less grandstanding on the Canadian side of the TBR panel and more attention paid to the traditional relationship we have had with these longstanding driftnet fisheries on both the Taku and Stikine.

We have and will harvest a larger proportion of salmon bound for these rivers forever. The logistics of harvest on the upper reaches of the Taku and Stikine as well as the extraordinarily small numbers of fishermen on the Canadian side of the border do not justify a straight up "equal sharing".

So the good news is that Tree Point and Noyes Island are done insofar as direct negotiations are concerned. However, we have a year and a half to wrestle with Chinook and the Transboundary Rivers. Wish us luck.... It's your fishery.


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