Pacific Salmon Treaty and the Pacific Salmon Commission
The Pacific Salmon Treaty is an international agreement and cooperative fishery management process between the governments of the United States and Canada. The Pacific Salmon Commission was formed to manage the implementation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty.
The Pacific Salmon Treaty is a mutual international agreement and cooperative fishery management process formed between the governments of the United States and Canada. The Treaty regulates the fisheries that occur in the ocean and inland waters of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, the Yukon, and southeast Alaska, and includes the rivers that flow into these waters. In 1985, the Pacific Salmon Commission was established to address the application of the principles of the Pacific Salmon Treaty. Both countries agree to work together in the management, research, and improvement of Pacific salmon fisheries. These fisheries are the foundation of many coastal communities as they provide jobs and support millennia-old traditions of First Nations and American Indian Tribes. The governments of the U.S. and Canada work with First Nations, Tribes, provinces, states, and sport and commercial fishing groups towards shared goals and needs of the communities and parties.
Why was the Pacific Salmon Treaty formed?
Before the Treaty, management of salmon fisheries between the U.S. and Canada was often competitive, which led to overfishing. Salmon can spend several years at sea, migrate long distances, and travel across international borders as they mature (see map, below). Because of their journey, salmon that are born in U.S. rivers can enter ocean fishery zones of Canada and be caught by Canadian fishermen, and vice versa. If one nation catches too many of the other country’s salmon, that can disrupt the home country’s salmon management plans and can negatively affect salmon populations. The Treaty was established to cooperatively address the conservation and management of salmon in both countries.
Pacific Salmon Treaty Principles
The goals of the Pacific Salmon Treaty are to:
- Prevent overfishing and provide for the best possible salmon production
- Ensure both the U.S. and Canada receive the benefits equal to their fair share of salmon that are born in U.S. and Canadian waters
To achieve these goals, the Treaty establishes a process through which all parties involved from both countries interact to create, apply, and monitor science-based fishery management practices relevant to their areas. The U.S. and Canada hold management authority over their fisheries and make sure management is consistent with the Treaty.
Pacific Salmon Commission
The Pacific Salmon Commission is an international organization, governed by the Pacific Salmon Treaty, and is a decision-making body for cooperative management of Pacific salmon between the U.S. and Canada. The PSC is a forum that consists of sixteen people, with four Commissioners and four alternates from each country. The Commissioners represent the interests of tribal, state, and federal governments in managing commercial, recreational, and subsistence or “food, social, and ceremonial” fisheries from Southeast Alaska and British Columbia in the north to mid-Oregon in the south. Scientists and managers from both countries collaborate through regional panels and technical committees, which provide forums to discuss issues of common regional importance and scientific advice on salmon populations and fishery methods. State and tribal management organizations implement the agreements reached by the panels and the Commissioners through their regulatory authorities.
Learn more about The Sociocultural Significance of Pacific Salmon for Tribes and First Nations
What is the role of NOAA Fisheries in the PSC?
NOAA Fisheries participates in PSC negotiations to ensure that the interests of the U.S. Government are met and that the agreements are consistent with other resource management laws such as the Endangered Species Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. NOAA Fisheries holds the Federal position as one of the four U.S. Commissioners and is also represented on the management panels and the technical committees.
Purpose of the Pacific Salmon Commission
The Pacific Salmon Commission is responsible for the administration of the obligations in the Treaty through regular management meetings and Treaty-related research. The tribal, state, and federal government bodies in the U.S. and Canada implement fisheries consistent with the requirements of the Treaty. Each year, representatives from the Canadian and U.S. governments, U.S. states, First Nations, and Tribes meet to discuss and review management of commercial, sport, and subsistence fisheries relative to the requirements of the Treaty.
Interception is when salmon born in the waters of one country are caught in the waters of another. Interception may affect the management of the home country's salmon fisheries or the number of fish available for harvest produced in the home country. The PSC does not regulate salmon fisheries but provides management suggestions, and outlines the management framework through which the U.S. and Canada are able to reach mutually beneficial salmon management agreements. The PSC also provides the forum to discuss and negotiate necessary changes to the Treaty language.
Area of the Pacific Salmon Commission
The map below displays the West Coast area relevant to the Pacific Salmon Commission. The colors represent the different salmon stocks and the path those salmon may travel in the Pacific Ocean.
Pacific Salmon Commission Fishery Planning Process
U.S. and Canadian governments provide technical information to the PSC on the actions of their fisheries, pre-season expectations for the next year (if available), review compliance with requirements of the Treaty, and address emerging issues.
The PSC, panels, and committees meet to review the previous year’s fishing season results. Committees of scientists from the U.S. and Canada analyze the data and report to panels which review and discuss the information to comply with Treaty obligations.
Based on the information provided, and discussions in January, the panels provide the PSC with proposals for the fishery season and cooperative research. For any decisions or suggestions, all parties need to come to a consensus. The PSC, panels, and committees plan and prepare for the upcoming fishing season by sharing expectations of salmon abundance for the next year, and reviewing past performance and methods of salmon management.
March - October
Panels communicate the proposals to the U.S. and Canadian governments for final approval and application of the fishery from March to October. Each party’s government makes sure the implementation of their fisheries is consistent with the principles of the Treaty, the proposals of the PSC, and meets the terms of their country’s respective laws such as the Endangered Species Act, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and other domestic requirements of both nations. The salmon fishery season occurs from March to October.
More information on the different Pacific Salmon Commission Panels
How can I get involved?
Members of the public are invited to attend and tune in to public PSC meetings to provide public comments. Some of the ways you can get involved include:
- West Coast Salmon and Steelhead Fisheries Management
- Salmon and Steelhead Fisheries in the Mainstem Columbia River and Snake River
- Puget Sound Salmon and Steelhead Fisheries
- Pacific Fishery Management Council
- Ecosystem Interactions and Pacific Salmon
- Salmon Life Cycle and Seasonal Fishery Planning
- West Coast Salmon and Steelhead Fisheries Management Map
- Pacific Salmon and Steelhead Fisheries Management Glossary