Allowable Harvest of Treaty Salmon Rises

A robust abundance of treaty Chinook salmon means a boost in the harvest allocation for 2020 under management provisions of the 2019-2028 Pacific Salmon Treaty Agreement, Alaska state fisheries biologists say.

“What is being forecast looks to be a higher abundance of those treaty stocks and we have more fish to catch this year because abundance of treaty stocks is up,” said Grant Hagerman, commercial troll management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Juneau.

ADF&G announced in mid-February that the annual all-gear allowable catch limit for Southeast Alaska/Yakutat would be 201,100 treaty Chinook. Any kings not of Alaska hatchery origin are considered treaty fish.

This year’s all-gear catch limit includes a 2 percent reduction to serve as a buffer to avoid exceeding the all-gear limit and payback provisions within the treaty. The resulting preseason troll treaty harvest allocation will be 148,500 Chinooks, which is 42,200 fish higher than the preseason limit available a year ago. The treaty itself allows for payback in allocation the next year if the catch exceeds what was allowed.

The Chinook salmon harvest limit for the Southeast Alaska/Yakutat all-gear fishery is determined by the estimated CPUE (catcher per unit effort) metric from the winter power troll fishery in District 113 from Oct. 11 through Nov. 30. The CPUE metric is translated into a seven-tiered catch ceiling table, with each tier representing a range of CPUEs, the associated abundance index values and the applicable harvest ceiling.

State biologists said the summer troll fishery harvest allocation is calculated by subtracting the treaty Chinook salmon harvested in the winter and spring troll fisheries from the annual troll treaty allocation.

The winter fishery is generally managed to not exceed the guideline harvest level of 45,000 treaty kings for the season. Still in 2020, under provisions of the Unuk River Chinook salmon action plan, the winter troll fishery will close on March 15.
There is no explicit guideline harvest level for kings harvested in spring fisheries, but they are still managed to limit the harvest of treaty kings. Non-Alaska hatchery fish are counted towards the annual treaty harvest limit of kings while most of the Alaska hatchery fish are not.

Since spring fisheries will be in progress through June 30, preliminary harvest estimates for treaty kings in the spring fisheries will not be determined until late June, state biologists said. The summer fishery then will be managed to harvest 70 percent of the remaining fish on the troll allocation in the first summer Chinook opening in July, with the remainder available for harvest in a second opening, which typically occurs in August. If the remainder of the annual troll allocation is not harvested in the second opening, and if ADF&G determines that the number of kings remaining on the annual troll allocation is not sufficient to allow for a competitive fishery, the commissioner may, by emergency order, reopen the troll fishery to harvest kings during a limited harvest period. A decision on whether the first summer opening will be managed in season rather than for a fixed number of days is to be announced just prior to the July 1 opening.

The Pacific Salmon Treaty dates back to March of 1985, when the United States and Canada agreed to cooperate in management, research and enhancement of Pacific salmon stocks of mutual concern by ratifying the treaty.
From 1992 to 1998, the two nations were unable to reach agreement on comprehensive, coastwide fisheries arrangements, but in 1999 government-to-government negotiations culminated in successful renewal of long-term fishing arrangements under the treaty.

Since then the U.S. and Canada have negotiated and implemented new fishing regimes on agreed schedules. In 2019, they implemented a new 10-year agreement for these fisheries, which is now in force through 2028.