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Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy

Abstract

The 1985 Pacific Salmon Treaty between Canada and the United States was negotiated to deal with evidence that Pacific salmon stocks originating in Canada and the United States were in decline. The Pacific Salmon Treaty sought to establish total annual fishing limits for Canada and the United States that were consistent with the sustainable conservation of Pacific salmon stocks, and to base the total allowable catch for Canadian fishermen on forecasts of the total abundance of salmon. As the Pacific Salmon Treaty has been implemented, however, there has been a re-occurring pattern of annual abundance forecasts overestimating the actual abundance of salmon stocks. This article posits that these discrepancies between Pacific Salmon Treaty abundance forecasts and actual reported abundance levels are due in large part to a conservation model that fails to take proper account of the differences and relationship between wild (naturally-spawning) salmon and salmon artificially-propagated in hatcheries. Once these differences and relationships are better understood, it becomes clear that expanding hatcheries may lead to the continuing decline of Pacific salmon stocks rather than their restoration, and that the Pacific Salmon Treaty conservation model may need to focus less on hatcheries and more on improving freshwater conditions and habitat for wild salmon. Recent amendments to the Pacific Salmon Treaty, which went into effect in 2019, may provide a potential mechanism to bring the conservation of wild salmon stocks and their habitat into the Pacific Salmon Treaty’s abundance forecasting model.

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