Washington Law Review


The 1985 Pacific Salmon Treaty was heralded as an end to the ongoing international dispute between the United States and Canada over Pacific salmon fishing rights. The Treaty, however, failed to define adequately the principles and processes for allocating salmon harvests between the two countries. The parties to the Treaty have been unable to reach consensus on annual salmon harvests since 1992, fueling a growing conflict which has threatened to spill over to issues beyond the fishery dispute. This Article examines the historical context of the "salmon war," highlighting changes in international law and domestic politics that affected the formation of the Treaty. The Pacific Salmon Treaty established a framework for the parties to cooperate in the management of salmon stocks, but did not define several key principles and created a cumbersome voting mechanism. These deficiencies have resulted in annual negotiations that are fraught with conflict, leading to a breakdown in the Treaty process. This Article analyzes several alternatives for solving this current crisis. The parties could submit the annual allocation decisions to an international arbitration board that would have the power to bind both sides. Each country could agree to compensate the other country monetarily for interceptions of the other's salmon stocks. The Treaty could also be revised to provide for a default allocation scheme if the parties fail to reach agreement on annual fishery regulations. Finally, the United States and Canada could create an international market of individual salmon quotas. As this Article was being revised for publication, the United States and Canada entered into an historic agreement designed to end the Pacific salmon war. The Epilogue at Part VI of this Article discusses the new agreement and its future implications for Pacific salmon.

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