Washington International Law Journal


The United States and Canada have found a solution to their century long "salmon war" over how many salmon can be taken by each side's fishing fleets from the once-bountiful Pacific salmon runs. Each country felt entitled to an "equitable" portion of the salmon, but no agreed means existed to calculate the shares. Canada felt that the prodigious U.S. fleet often caught more than its share. Substantial peace first came under the 1985 Pacific Salmon Treaty, but dwindling salmon populations, the expiration of the original management regimes, and flaws in those regimes threatened to doom the 1985 Treaty by the mid-1990s. The lack of harvest agreements left each country scrambling for the fish, putting unsustainable pressure on an already delicate resource. After half a decade of infighting and argument, Canada and the United States signed a new agreement under the treaty in 1999. On the surface, the genius of the new Agreement lies in the new "Abundance Based Management" scheme and the multimillion dollar Endowment Funds earmarked for conservation. The flexible, resource-based management programs considered the yearly strength of the salmon runs before and during the harvest season. These new regimes, and the 1999 Agreement as a whole, were subject to review under the Endangered Species Act, completed by NMFS in 1999. The Endowment Funds provided a financial base to undertake substantial conservation initiatives. With the understanding that an imperfect agreement was better than no agreement, the Canadians effectively set aside their longstanding equity demands to achieve consensus. As part of the overall compromise, the United States agreed to fully finance the Endowment Funds for a total of (U.S.) $140 million. The sea change in Canadian negotiation posture reflected a renewed emphasis on resource conservation and a willingness to pioneer new avenues for success.

First Page