Agreement to boost salmon returning to Pacific Northwest waters

Pacific Salmon Treaty agreement finalized; agreement will support improved salmon recovery to benefit orcas

Gov. Jay Inslee announced today that representatives from the United States and Canada have agreed to recommend their governments approve new coast-wide fishing agreements under the Pacific Salmon Treaty.

The agreement outlines each nation’s fishery management plans for chinook, coho and chum stocks from 2019 to 2028. If approved, the treaty will result in more salmon returning to Washington and Oregon waters, where many populations are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“This step comes at a crucial time as we continue to see declines in chinook salmon populations around Puget Sound,” Inslee said. “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.”

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Photo courtesy of the Washington State Department of Ecology

Principles of the treaty, originally agreed upon in 1985, define the obligation of Canada and the United States to conduct their fisheries in a manner that prevents overfishing and allows each country to receive benefits equivalent to the production of salmon originating in each nation’s waters.

“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,” Oregon Governor Kate Brown said.

The governments of Canada and the United States must approve the recommendations of the Pacific Salmon Commission before implementation can occur in 2019. The U.S. commissioners include representatives from Washington state, Oregon, Alaska and Northwest and Columbia River Treaty Tribes. Phil Anderson, former director of the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife, is the lead negotiator for the United States.

“We faced some very challenging issues in these negotiations,” Anderson said. “I appreciate everyone’s willingness to work together to come up with a plan that will create a better future for salmon in Washington.”

The most significant changes in the treaty involve chinook salmon, which migrate from Washington’s rivers and streams north to the marine waters of British Columbia and southeast Alaska. While feeding in those waters, the fish are vulnerable to fisheries in British Columbia and Alaska.

Under the new terms, Canada will reduce its chinook fisheries by as much as 12.5 percent from 2009–2015 levels while Alaska will cut fisheries to reduce impacts to chinook by as much as 7.5 percent from 2009 levels during years when poor salmon runs are expected. Fisheries in Washington will remain tightly constrained unless runs exceed management objectives.

“This agreement corresponds with the efforts I asked state agencies to take earlier this year to benefit southern resident killer whales and salmon,” Inslee said. “Additional federal funding is essential in order to make the key conservation work possible to recover salmon, and in turn, our orcas.”

The governor established a task force to address threats to killer whales such as the lack of salmon and toxic contaminants in the water. More information can be found here.

As part of the agreement, U.S. commissioners will seek additional federal funding for salmon habitat improvement, habitat protection, and hatchery conservation programs within Puget Sound.

Details about the federal funding are expected to be finalized within the next month. U.S. commissioners anticipate a funding request that is equal to or more than the 2009 one-time request of $50 million.

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Photo courtesy of King County.

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