Pacific Salmon Commission
The Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) implements the terms of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, signed by the United States and Canada in 1985. The Treaty governs commercial, recreational, subsistence, and tribal fishing arrangements for Pacific salmon species which migrate across the international borders between Alaska, Canada, and Washington state. Every ten years, the Annex to the Treaty is renegotiated. The current Annex expires at the end of 2018, which means we are in the midst of renegotiation.
For a brief overview of the Treaty and PSC, we encourage you to open the infographic to the right before continuing.
The renegotiation process can be contentious, as we point out in the infographic. Referring to the 1999 negotiation process, current PSC Commissioner and lead Alaska representative, ADFG Deputy Commissioner Charles Swanton said, “[t]he anger, angst, and untold hours of heated negotiations that took place should not be downplayed.” The resulting agreement included important arrangements for Transboundary River salmon, Northern Boundary seine and gillnet fisheries, and Chinook salmon. The PSC members renegotiated the Annex again in 2008-09, creating the foundation for our current management. As D.C. Swanton explained, the 2009 negotiations involved making concessions for the benefit of the overall agreement and Alaska’s position in future negotiations.
Right now, the negotiation process is challenging because some of Alaska’s 2009 expectations have not come to pass:
- Nearly 78 percent of the Chinook caught in Southeast Alaska as part of the Treaty agreement originate in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon;
- These stocks are still exhibiting poor production, most likely as a result of a combination of factors, including habitat degradation, negative effects of hydropower dams on waterways, marine survival, predation, and historical harvest practices;
- Due to modeling errors in forecasting Chinook abundance, Alaska exceeded its cumulative catch allowance under the 2009 agreement;
- Chinook stocks which negotiators believed would recuperate prior to the 2018 negotiations have not been sufficiently rebuilt.
This is all in addition to low marine survival of Alaska and Transboundary River Chinook salmon stocks.
For Alaskans who rely on Chinook salmon for food or their businesses, this process is especially frustrating. Negotiations have the potential to affect Alaska’s overall harvest numbers. We saw this happen in the 2009 negotiations, when the need to rebuild stocks listed under the Endangered Species Act resulted in reductions of 30% from Canadian harvest and 15% from Alaskan harvest. Negotiations can also affect local and regional management. The Abundance Index (AI) is the starting point for management measures under the Southeast Alaska King Salmon Management Plan. The AI relies on accurate modeling and data collection for stocks originating in Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. Improvements for both of these factors, and the AI model itself, can be incorporated into negotiations.
As we point out in the infographic, negotiations are largely confidential. This is also frustrating and can lead to speculation from people outside of the process. This is why we encourage you to reach out to your gear group representative and learn about what’s going on. The Treaty and PSC process have provided an overall benefit to Alaskans and Pacific salmon – harvests are sustainable, conservation is promoted coastwide, parties are in constant communication, and we know more about salmon than ever before.
For these reasons, it is important that Alaskan users band together to support our negotiating team as a whole – because the results affect us as a whole.
PSC charter/sport representatives Tom Ohaus and Russell Thomas can be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about the Treaty and the Pacific Salmon Commission, visit their webpage: http://www.psc.org/