Updated 4:29 p.m. Sept. 17, 2018
US and Canadian salmon managers have reached a new 10-year agreement on Chinook harvest and conservation, one that must still be approved in the countries’ capitals but calls for reduced northern interceptions when runs are poor.
Fisheries off Southeast Alaska would be cut as much as 7.5 percent from 2009-15 levels in those years, while those off the west coast of Vancouver Island would be pruned up to 12.5 percent.
Those are key areas that Washington- and Columbia River-bound kings travel through during their ocean sojourn and a bone of contention for managers at all levels.
“I think that thorniness is why it took the countries two and a half years and numerous negotiation sessions,” said John Field, the executive secretary of the Pacific Salmon Commission.
The update to the international treaty would run from Jan. 1, 2019 through 2028 and be in effect down to Cape Falcon, Oregon. It also covers chums, sockeye, pinks and coho.
Field termed the section on Chinook a “long and complicated chapter” and said that all parties are acknowledging that the species isn’t recovering as well as we’d like, so the burden of harvest cuts is being spread out.
According to Governor Jay Inslee’s office, “Fisheries in Washington will remain tightly constrained unless runs exceed management objectives.”
Alaska salmon managers report that Washington and Oregon fisheries could see reductions from 5 to 15 percent.
Washington’s member of the salmon commission, Phil Anderson, the retired WDFW director, said the plan would “create a better future for salmon in Washington.”
Field, who counts himself as a sports fishermen, said that fellow anglers can rest assured that Chinook management will be improved with “augmentations” in the treaty, including improved tagging for mark-selective fisheries, a 10-year schedule to upgrade monitoring of “sentinel” stocks and a review after five years to see if the reductions are actually yielding better king runs.
The importance of Chinook has been in the spotlight of late with the plight of southern resident killer whales and the likely death of yet another one, J50.
According to Inslee’s office, US salmon commissioners will seek out more money from Washington DC for habitat and hatchery work.
“Additional federal funding is essential in order to make the key conservation work possible to recover salmon, and in turn, our orca,” Inslee said.
“Successful updates to the Pacific Salmon 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,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown in a press release.