Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

Canada and United States Renew Pacific Salmon Treaty

On January 6, 2009, Canada and the United States ratified an agreement on changes to five chapters of the Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST), which expired at the end of 2008. The renewed chapters took effect January 1, 2009.  The purpose of the Pacific Salmon Treaty is to prevent over fishing and preserve and sustain pacific salmon stocks.  The fish do not recognize the Canada-United States border - hence the need for the treaty and bilateral cooperation.

The Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST) was signed by Canada and the United States (U.S.) in 1985 and provides the framework through which the two countries work together to conserve and manage Pacific salmon. Pacific salmon are highly migratory and, over the course of their lifecycle, fish originating in the rivers of one country are often subject to the fisheries of another. A high degree of bilateral cooperation is required to limit the harvest of one country’s salmon by the other and to help ensure conservation.

Annex IV of the Treaty contains a number of "fishing chapters." These chapters are essential to the functioning of the PST and set out the specific conservation and harvest sharing arrangements for stocks and fisheries. Each country is responsible for managing its fisheries, but does so in a way that is consistent with the Treaty. These chapters are:

  • Chapter 1: Transboundary Rivers (all species)

  • Chapter 2: Northern Boundary (sockeye, pink and chum)

  • Chapter 3: Chinook (coast-wide)

  • Chapter 4: Fraser River (sockeye and pink)

  • Chapter 5: Coho (Southern BC, Washington and Oregon)

  • Chapter 6: Chum (Southern BC and Washington)

  • Chapter 8: Yukon River (Chinook and Chum)


The last comprehensive renewal of these chapters was in 1999 and provisions for five of the chapters were set to expire at the end of 2008: Chapters 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6. Chapter 4, covering Fraser River sockeye and pink, expires at the end of 2010.

The Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) is the bilateral body established to oversee implementation of the Treaty. Canada’s representatives on the PSC include First Nations, commercial and recreational fishing interests, the environmental sector, and the Province of British Columbia, as well as Fisheries and Oceans Canada. As laid out in the Treaty, the PSC is responsible for reviewing the fishing chapters of the Treaty and, where appropriate, making recommendations to the governments of Canada and the U.S. for their amendment.

Canadian and U.S. representatives on the PSC initiated a review of the expiring Treaty chapters in January 2007, and began discussing possible amendments. On May 22, 2008, the PSC reached an agreement of proposed changes to the Treaty chapters that were up for renewal, and recommended the ratification of the agreement to the governments of Canada and the U.S. Both governments have ratified that agreement. The changes to the five renewed chapters took effect January 1, 2009. They will be in effect for the 2009 fishing season and remain in place through 2018.

Overview of Recommendations from the Pacific Salmon Commission:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Additional provisions are included in the chapter to protect weak stocks, including further harvest reductions in the Alaskan and Northern BC AABM fisheries, as well as the individual stock-based management (ISBM) fisheries in both countries if certain chinook stocks fail to meet escapement objectives.

A fund will be created, endowed by both the U.S. and Canada, to support implementation of the chinook chapter. Key elements would include:

  • $30M which Canada can access to help mitigate the impacts of harvest reductions in Canada;

  • $15M ($7.5M from each country) to support the coastwide coded-wire tag (CWT) program;

  • $10M from the Northern and Southern Endowment Funds for a "Sentinel Stocks Program"2;

  • up to $3M which Canada can access to support pilot projects and the evaluation of mass-marking and mark-selective fisheries in Canada; and

  • $1M to improve the analytical models to implement the chinook agreement.

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

(Chum): Substantive changes to the chum chapter were agreed to by both countries in 2006. However, further revisions have now been agreed to, including: the introduction of a 20% fixed harvest rate in Johnstone Strait, linking the U.S. catch ceiling to the abundance of Fraser River chum (i.e. in the case of a terminal run size below 900,000 chum salmon, the U.S. would restrict its fisheries in Area 7 and 7A to 20,000 chum), and the establishment of a "critical level" for southern-bound chum salmon of one million. There will also be a defined start date for U.S. fisheries in Areas 7 and 7A of October 10 and the removal of the previous "underage" provisions for U.S. harvest. (Coho): the renewed chapter for coho incorporates the joint Southern Coho Management Plan developed in 2002 with the abundance-based management framework established in 1999. (Chinook): The revised chapter will maintain the current abundance-based management framework established in 1999. Reductions will occur in the allowable chinook harvest in two aggregate abundance-based management (AABM) "mixed-stock fisheries" to address conservation concerns in both countries. The current maximum catch levels would be reduced by 15% in the case of the (U.S.) Southeast Alaskan AABM fishery and by 30% in the case of the (Canadian) west coast of Vancouver Island AABM fishery. (Northern Boundary): The existing provisions for Northern Boundary sockeye, pink and chum will be maintained. (Transboundary Rivers): The renewed chapter includes new harvest sharing arrangements for sockeye on the Taku River and a renewed commitment to the joint enhancement program for sockeye in the Transboundary Area. The chapter also includes new arrangements for the management of sockeye on the Alsek River, including the ability of either party to recommend new commercial fisheries. Also proposed is Canadian access to fish that are surplus to the spawning requirements outlined in the agreement. The chapter would maintain the existing harvest sharing arrangements for chinook, sockeye and coho salmon on the Stikine River, and chinook and coho on the Taku River.

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