Southeast Alaska Chinook Salmon Fishery Mitigation Program
Program Background

Chinook salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska generate income, provide recreation and are valuable sources of nutrition. The annual harvest level of Chinook salmon in Southeast Alaska is set under provisions of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, an agreement between the United States and Canada that addresses conservation and allocation of salmon stocks that migrate across the international boundary and are harvested in the fisheries of both nations. Salmon that spawn in one nation but may be harvested in both nations are a shared resource that involves the interests of both nations.

Renegotiations of the Chinook fishery provisions of the treaty that set harvest levels for Southeast Alaska and Canadian Chinook fisheries off the West Coast of Vancouver Island (WCVI), as well as harvest provisions for Chinook fisheries in the Pacific Northwest, were completed in 2008. Reaching coast wide agreement on Chinook salmon harvest was very difficult due to the wide migratory range of stocks and the variability in their status. Many Chinook stocks are healthy, but others are depressed and many originating in the Pacific Northwest are listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The principal factors addressed in the treaty negotiations included the large number of salmon stocks in the Pacific Northwest that are listed under the ESA; the impact of the Canadian WCVI Chinook fishery on the ESA-listed U.S. Chinook stocks; the much lesser impact on ESA-listed stocks by the Southeast Alaska Chinook fishery; the harvest in Southeast Alaska of Chinook originating in Canada and the Pacific Northwest; and the historic dependence of coastal communities on the Chinook salmon fisheries. The 2009 Pacific Salmon Treaty agreement reduced the Canadian WCVI Chinook fishery 30% to address ESA related conservation concerns, and reduced the Southeast Alaska Chinook fishery 15% to address harvest sharing and conservation issues asserted by Canada. The agreement formed the basis for securing the required ESA Section 7 incidental take permit for conduct of the Southeast Alaska Chinook fisheries.

To secure the 30% reduction in the Canadian Chinook fishery, the United States included in the treaty agreement a commitment to provide $30 million to Canada for mitigation of economic consequences of the harvest reduction. U.S. negotiators agreed that funding should also be provided for mitigation of the economic consequences of the Chinook harvest reductions in Southeast Alaska, and for a program to address the critical status of many Chinook stocks in the Pacific Northwest. The Southeast Alaska Chinook Salmon Mitigation program was funded at $7.5 million in the FFY 10 Commerce Department (NOAA – NMFS) appropriation. A second appropriation of $7.1 million was secured through the FFY 11 budget process.