Current Agreement And Prospects For The Future

The 1999 agreement represents a dramatic break from the previous approach. Rather than relying on short-lived, ceiling-based regimes whose frequent renegotiation provided ample opportunity for disagreement and brinkmanship, the new agreement establishes a long-term commitment to define harvest shares as a function of the abundance of each salmon species in the areas covered by the treaty. For example, for the next 12 years, the U.S. share of Fraser River sockeye will be fixed at 16.5% of the annual harvest. This represents a decrease from the post-1985 average U.S. share of 20.5%, but an increase relative to the share actually attained by the U.S. fleet during the 1992 to 1997 salmon war period (DFO, 1999; O'Neil, 1999a). This percentage approach allows the number of Fraser River sockeye harvested by the U.S. fleet to increase in years of high sockeye abundance while requiring reduced harvests when abundance is depressed. In contrast, in the 1985 treaty, U.S. harvests


of Fraser sockeye were to be held to a cap of 7 million fish over each of two successive 4-year periods (Pacific Salmon Treaty, Annex 4).

The new arrangements for chinook, which will be in effect for 10 years, take account of the fact that the various fisheries along the coast differ considerably in the extent to which they rely on healthy or depressed chinook stocks (U.S. Department of State, 1999). Accordingly, the agreement designates two types of fisheries: (1) aggregate abundance-based management (AABM) fisheries will be managed based on indices of the aggregate abundance of chinook present in the fishery and (2) individual stock-based management (ISBM) fisheries, which are primarily located in inside fishing areas, will be managed based on the status of individual stocks or groups of stocks (e.g., on the basis of the evolving status of currently endangered or threatened stocks). Abundance-based allocation rules for coho have not yet been developed, but the agreement instructs the parties to jointly develop such a management approach, and specifies various deadlines for the accomplishment of particular tasks.

It is not yet clear if the new approach will provide a path to sustainable cooperation. While the focus on conservation will tend to protect some of the weak stocks that were jeopardized by the recent turmoil, the new agreement does little to resolve long-standing differences over the division of benefits. In particular, many Canadians remain convinced that Canada will come out "short" under this agreement, and they have labeled it "profoundly disappointing" (Culbert and Beatty, 1999). They are also unhappy about the long-term implications of the agreement because they feel that it risks committing them to an unsatisfactory arrangement for many years. In fact, the Canadian delegation had unsuccessfully argued for a shorter term. Although the parties have formally stipulated that compliance with the terms of the new agreement shall be deemed to fulfill the requirements of Article III of the treaty, the stipulation applies only for the duration of the current agreement. If Canadians continue to feel that their interests have been compromised, there may be renewed turmoil when this agreement expires. Nevertheless, the agreement represents a step in the right direction and may perhaps lay the groundwork for more robust future cooperation.

One positive aspect is the agreement's provision for two endowment funds, the proceeds of which are to be used to support scientific research, habitat restoration, and enhancement of wild stock production in their respective (northern and southern) areas. Initially, the funding is to be provided entirely by the United States, and the entire agreement is contingent on U.S. Congressional approval of $75 million for the Northern Fund and $65 million for the Southern Fund. In the future, either party may make additional contributions, and even third parties may contribute, with the consent of the parties.

Some analysts have suggested that expanding the scope of the salmon negotiations to allow "side payments" might provide a path to sustained cooperation. These payments might be either in monetary form or in the form of concessions on other nonsalmon issues (Schmidt 1996; Munro et al, 1998). The endowment funds might be a vehicle for providing such side payments, although their initial yield will be far smaller than the debt claimed by Canada from the United States for the accumulated harvest imbalance. A portion of the money available from the Northern Fund will support Alaskan research and enhancement (O'Neil, 1999b), which, together with other payments, might elicit greater cooperation from Alaska. However, it remains to be seen if this tool will be put to good use, or if its promise will be squandered in quarreling over distribution of the proceeds.

In summary, the new agreement is a hopeful sign, but it does not ensure sustained cooperation. The division of benefits is still largely tied to the division of the catch. Depending on the vagaries of nature, the parties may or may not find that division to be satisfactory. If they do not, and if they fail to develop other methods to ensure a fair division of benefits, then another breakdown in cooperation will likely occur when this agreement expires. The Pacific salmon case demonstrates that the societal impacts of weather and climate are often a complex product of physical or biological impacts, institutional factors, and economic motivations operating in a context of incomplete information. We must attempt to understand all aspects of this complex interaction if we are to improve society's ability to cope with the effects of climatic variations.

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