Salmon Officials Warn of Setbacksby Erik Robinson
The Columbian, August 21, 2003
American members of the U.S.-Canadian Pacific Salmon Commission, including one from Vancouver, are warning that congressional budget cuts threaten to undermine hard-won agreements over harvesting salmon migrating between the two countries.
All four U.S. members of the commission plan to make the case directly to Congress next month. The commission oversees the Pacific Salmon Treaty and makes recommendations about harvest levels.
The United States' annual contribution of $1.1 million was due in April, and the commission has been operating since then solely on the Canadian government's share.
Without funding from Congress, proposed in President Bush's budget but subsequently cut by Congress, the commission will have to start laying off scientists and other support staff.
"This could be the first step in unraveling all the progress achieved under the treaty over the past two decades," said W. Ron Allen, a U.S. commissioner and chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe.
Larry Cassidy, a newly appointed member of the commission from Vancouver, credited Canada's concession to reduce its harvest of salmon bound for Puget Sound and the Columbia River as a major factor in strengthening runs in recent years.
Likewise, Canadians have benefitted from Alaskans agreeing to reduce the harvest of Fraser River sockeye salmon.
The commission was formed by a 1985 treaty between the United States and Canada to divvy up the harvest of salmon migrating across borders. The commission includes four representatives each from Canada and the United States, representing Alaska, American Indian tribes, Oregon-Washington, and a nonvoting representative of the federal government.
The commission exerts its influence in recommending harvest allocations between the United States and Canada, an issue that boiled over into an international incident in 1997.
Charging that Alaskans caught too many sockeye salmon bound for spawning waters in British Columbia, Canadian fishermen formed a blockade around an Alaskan ferry in Prince Rupert.
A renegotiation of the treaty in 1999 alleviated some of those concerns by setting harvest targets based on the projected abundance of individual stocks.
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