North America's commercial Pacific salmon fisheries were established and grew rapidly in the late nineteenth century. In many areas, returning adult salmon soon were running such a gauntlet of competing fishing gears and other hindrances, such as dams, that it was a lucky salmon that survived to spawn (Higgs, 1982). The resulting decline in salmon populations led to the creation of public agencies to establish fishing gear restrictions and fishing seasons. However, these authorities could never fully control harvests of the salmon stocks within their purview because many salmon could be caught as they passed through the waters of neighboring
jurisdictions on their return migration. Such "interceptions" became increasingly important over time as fishing effort expanded in offshore areas.
The first significant international agreement on salmon harvests was a convention between the United States and Canada, signed in 1930 and ratified in 1937. That agreement divided the harvest of Fraser River sockeye salmon as well as management and restoration costs equally between the two nations (Munro and Stokes, 1989). The agreement was later extended to Fraser River pink salmon. Under that convention, the International Pacific Salmon Fishery Commission (IPSFC) regulated harvests of the Fraser River stocks. Although the Fraser River lies entirely in Canada, a large portion of the salmon spawning in that drainage typically approach the river through the Strait of Juan de Fuca where, historically, they had been harvested by Washington State fishing vessels. When a rock slide blocked access to part of their spawning habitat, and sent the Fraser's salmon resources into decline, the United States and Canada had a clear joint interest in removing the blockage and restoring the runs.
That agreement covered only a portion of the salmon runs jointly exploited by the United States and Canada. When negotiations for the Pacific Salmon Treaty began in 1971, Alaskan interceptions of salmon spawned in the rivers of Washington and Oregon were creating tensions among the states, while increasing Canadian troll harvests of those stocks precluded an effective internal solution. In addition, mutual interceptions of salmon of Canadian and Alaskan origin were seen as a barrier to effective management in the northern area (Yanagida, 1987). At the same time, the Canadians had become increasingly unhappy about their agreement to share one half of the Fraser River salmon with the United States because, by foregoing construction of hydropower dams on the Fraser, Canada was effectively bearing more than half of the cost of maintaining those runs. Afier 14 years of negotiations, the treaty went into effect in 1985.
The treaty created the Pacific Salmon Commission and gave it the authority to promulgate "fishing regimes" to govern harvests in six distinct fisheries. The commission is to periodically renegotiate these regimes as they expire. The body of the treaty lays out a set of general principles to guide the commission in this task. Of central importance are the equity and conservation objectives, which the treaty expresses as follows:
" .. .cach Party shall conduct its fisheries and its salmon enhancement programs so as to:
a) prevent overfishing and provide for optimum production; and b) provide for each Party to receive benefits equivalent to the production of salmon originating in its waters. (Pacific Salmon Treaty, Article III)"
The treaty then advises the parties to consider the following factors: the desirability of reducing interceptions, the desirability of avoiding disruption of existing fisheries, and annual variations in abundances of the stocks. These considerations are somewhat mutually inconsistent because many of the existing fisheries relied heavily on interceptions.
Until the June 1999 amendments to the treaty, the fishing regimes consisted primarily of harvest ceilings for specific locations and species. For example, in 1985 and 1986, the annual all-gear harvest of chinook in northern and central British Columbia and southeast Alaska was to be limited to 526,000 fish divided equally between the parties (Treaty, Annex IV, Chapter 3). Although the intent of the treaty was to control interceptions of fish produced in other jurisdictions, the difficulty of identifying the true origins of fish taken in an ongoing mixed-stock fishery led to the harvest ceiling approach as a proxy method for balancing interceptions.
In addition, the regimes were effective for only a few years. Negotiations for new regimes were to follow a consensus rule, but that allowed any of the parties to veto proposed fishing regimes seen as contrary to its constituent's interests (Yanagida, 1987; Miller, 1996; Schmidt, 1996; Munro et al., 1998). The relevant parties in this context are Canada and the 3 voting U.S. commissioners—representing Alaska, Washington/Oregon, and 24 treaty tribes located in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. While the Canadian federal government has primary authority on the Canadian side, the British Columbia Provincial Government has often differed vociferously with federal policies, and those internal differences frequently colored the course of the negotiations. When the parties failed to agree on fishing regimes, regulatory authority reverted to the appropriate state or federal jurisdiction. In the United States, the states have authority within 3 nautical miles of the coast and federal jurisdiction extends from 3 to 200 miles offshore.
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