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Commentaries and editorials

Give a Little, Get a Lot for Salmon

by Editors
Editorial, Seattle Times - September 2, 2003

An inexplicable lapse of attention threatens to scuttle the Pacific Salmon Commission because the United States has not paid a paltry $1.1 million to keep it running.

Operational expenses are borne equally by the U.S. and Canada, and our neighbor has paid its share. Congress and the White House are pointing fingers, but the bottom line is the commission could shut down next month.

The two nations have a 1985 treaty that is supposed to regulate the harvest of salmon runs and promote habitat restoration for a fishery that crosses international waters. The trouble is, treaties mean little unless they are given credibility and strength real sinew and muscle by the countries behind them.

Relations hit a low point in 1997 when British Columbia fishermen, angered by fears of Alaskan overfishing of Canadian stocks, blocked an Alaska state ferry in Prince Rupert, B.C., for three days.

The Northwest has an enormous stake in harmonious relations. A 1999 agreement sharply reduced the harvest of fish from Washington and Oregon off the Canadian coast. Those salmon are returning to spawn in Northwest streams and rivers.

Healthy, nutrient-rich ocean conditions, aided by weather patterns and current cycles in the Pacific, are a big part of the return to robust salmon runs.

But other conditions need to prevail as well. Fishing seasons and quotas must be set, respected and monitored. Salmon need healthy places to return to spawn. Coordination and cooperation are what the U.S.-Canada salmon commission is all about. All the pieces must work.

The amount of money owed by the U.S. is trivial. A failure to properly fund the Pacific Salmon Commission puts vastly more expensive investments at risk.

Give a Little, Get a Lot for Salmon
Seattle Times Company, September 2, 2003

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