A Workable Fix to Save Salmon
by Editorial Board
The Seattle Times, May 26, 2008
Things are so bad for the Pacific Coast salmon fishery, the United States and Canada are cooperating.
Cuts in harvest and improvements in habitat are part of a proposed revision to the Pacific Salmon Treaty, which should quickly be approved by both governments. The new treaty would reduce the catch off southeast Alaska by 15 percent and Canada would cut its take off the West Coast by 30 percent. The changes would send an estimated one million more chinook to Puget Sound and the Columbia River. Chinook are the target, but the 10-year agreement also covers coho, chum, pink and sockeye salmon.
On one level, the agreement is a marvel of process. The Pacific Salmon Commission produced this recommendation, a first. Previous treaty negotiations collapsed and had to be resolved by Ottawa and Washington, D.C. This time, a crisis helped focus all the parties: two countries, one province, one territory, four states and dozens of First Nation and tribal groups. Credit goes to the chair as well, Jeff Koenings, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Clearly, the progress is enlightened self-interest.
Earlier this month, federal officials declared an emergency for West Coast salmon off the California and Oregon coasts. The trouble is traced back to a wholesale collapse of the fishery in California's Sacramento River, but an explanation has been elusive. Habitat, hydro or harvest are the usual suspects.
Interests on both sides of the border could look south and only see a disaster to be avoided. Under the proposed agreement, both governments will contribute money to improve monitoring of salmon stocks, restore habitat, and reimburse the fishing industry for its economic loss.
Canada would pay about $7.5 million. and the U.S. tab would be $41.5 million.
Harvest cuts and program investments are the foundation of the agreement. All parties recognize the long-term risks and the consequences of not making these adjustments.
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