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e-4120 (Fisheries)

Initiated by David Mills from Courtenay, British Columbia

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • A January report from a coalition of conservation organizations in BC raised questions regarding the impacts of expanding Alaskan salmon fisheries on wild Pacific salmon of Canadian origin. These questions have gone unanswered;
  • In recent years, Canadian Pacific salmon populations have steadily declined despite record expenditures by the Government of Canada;
  • American fishers are intercepting an increasingly higher percentage of BC-bound Canadian salmon; and
  • The 1985 Pacific Salmon Treaty was intended to prevent over-fishing, maintain salmon stocks, reduce the harmful impact of interceptions, and deliver benefits to each party equivalent to the production of salmon originating in its waters. These goals have not been achieved.
We, the undersigned, citizens and permanent residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to demand a renegotiation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty to address the expansion of Alaskan fisheries and other interceptions of BC-bound Canadian salmon.

Response by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Mike Kelloway

The Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST), signed in 1985 sets out conservation objectives and management controls for Canadian and United States (U.S.) fisheries that intercept migratory Pacific salmon stocks originating from either Canadian or U.S. waters. In addition to the overarching principles outlined in the Treaty, the PST requires the Parties to develop and implement specific conservation and catch-sharing arrangements for Pacific salmon stocks and fisheries and to share data and other information related to stocks and fisheries that are subject to the PST. The Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) oversees the implementation of the PST and consists of chapter-specific Panels and Technical Committees.

The majority of U.S. fisheries for Pacific salmon occurring in southeast Alaska are administered in accordance with the PST. Several chapters in the Treaty contain specific measures which define catch limits for Canadian- origin salmon stocks harvested in Alaskan fisheries based on timing, per cent of total allowable harvest in a given year, and restrictions based on specific Pacific salmon stock run size.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) acknowledges that, in some years—and particularly in 2021—there have been elevated interceptions of certain Canadian-origin salmon near the Alaska-Canada border, including sockeye stocks from the Nass, Skeena, and Fraser Rivers. The increase in interceptions has been driven by several factors, including near historical high levels of harvest in the Southeast Alaska salmon fishery in 2021 and changes in run timing for Canadian stocks, which increasingly overlap with certain Southeast Alaskan fisheries. Fishery restrictions in Canada also meant that Alaskan interceptions accounted for a higher proportion of the overall harvest of Canadian-origin salmon stocks in 2021.

Based on the migratory route for Pacific salmon, the U.S. (Alaska) has the first opportunity to harvest many Canadian-origin stocks before they return to their natal streams to spawn. Canada also harvests a significant number of U.S.-origin salmon, including from Washington State and Oregon. The PST and the “fishing chapters” in Annex IV are critical to the conservation and long-term rebuilding of these stocks. A collaborative working relationship with the U.S. through the PSC process is also key to meeting Canada’s goals and objectives related to Pacific salmon.

In that context, Canada is taking a number of steps to address the concerns with current levels of Alaskan fishery interception of Canadian-origin salmon. The PSC holds multiple meetings annually to review conservation objectives under the Treaty, to confirm whether annual harvests remain within Treaty limits, and to discuss any emerging or unanticipated matters pertaining to Pacific salmon conservation and fisheries.

Canada is working closely with the U.S. to discuss and convey concerns over interception of Canadian-origin salmon stocks through the PSC.

Domestically, DFO is undertaking further policy and technical work to better understand the drivers behind this interception, including how environmental changes may be affecting run timing and the harvest of Pacific salmon stocks in various fisheries subject to the Treaty. DFO is also engaging with Indigenous groups and stakeholders to seek their perspective and advice on these issues. These efforts require time to complete and will inform Canada’s approach to future engagement with the U.S. through the PSC, including leading up to the next round of bilateral negotiations.

While relevant chapters of the Treaty do not expire until 2028, Chapter 2: Northern Boundary Area includes a performance review currently underway and a “check-in” in 2023. This provides Canada with an opportunity to review the current performance of the chapter in terms of meeting our conservation goals and objectives, raise concerns, and seek potential solutions.

The PSC remains a productive and collaborative process, and along with diplomatic channels, may offer opportunities to challenge the status quo, emphasize mutual conservation objectives, and seek potential solutions. Canada and DFO also have a strong, collaborative bilateral fisheries relationship with the U.S. through the U.S. Department of State (i.e., Marine Conservation section) and Department of Commerce (i.e., National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), which provides an additional avenue to signal Pacific salmon concerns and provoke discussion ahead of future PST chapter re-negotiation. This allows Canada to position itself accordingly, and advance Canadian interests during the next round of renegotiations.

Open for signature
September 15, 2022, at 12:07 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
October 15, 2022, at 12:07 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Brad Vis (Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon)
November 2, 2022 (Petition No. 441-00829)
Government response tabled
January 18, 2023
Photo - Brad Vis
Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon
Conservative Caucus
British Columbia