OLYMPIA (Aug. 18, 2003) – The United States government is weeks away from defaulting on a key element of the Pacific Salmon Treaty for lack of money. This crisis could compromise the full implementation of the treaty, first signed by the two countries in 1985 and substantially revamped in 1999. This situation could undo nearly 20 years of bilateral cooperation to rebuild depressed salmon runs and severely impact recreational, commercial and tribal salmon fisheries from Alaska to Oregon.

The bilateral Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC), based in Vancouver, B.C., is the body that oversees implementation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty. By treaty agreement, the U.S. and Canada equally share the cost of the Commission. So far this year, the United States has not made its annual payment, and the Commission has been operating solely on the Canadian government’s share, which will soon run out. The United States’ contribution of approximately $1.1 million was due in April 2003. If it is not paid by mid-September, the Commission will have to start shutting down its office.

The Bush Administration’s budget proposal for FY2003 included full funding for the Commission. However, the budget passed by Congress in February, unexpectedly did not include the funds for the U.S. share of the Commission. The U.S. Department of State has attempted to cover the shortfall on a temporary basis by redirecting funds from other accounts, but that approach, which requires concurrence from Congress, so far has not succeeded. U.S. representatives to the PSC will travel to Washington, D.C. when Congress reconvenes in September to urge federal appropriators to provide funds for operations of the Commission.

The government of Canada already has expressed serious concern over the failure of the United States to provide its share of the funding and the resulting disruption of the treaty’s implementation.

“The Commission has greatly scaled back its routine activities to provide the U.S. State Department additional time to address the funding issue, but time is running out” said Roland Rousseau, a U.S. Commissioner and chair of the Finance and Administration Committee. “Without the U.S. payment, the Pacific Salmon Commission soon will be forced to lay off staff, comprised mostly of scientific experts and administrative support personnel, and curtail all other support activities critical to treaty implementation.”

The 1985 Pacific Salmon Treaty governs the interception of intermingling salmon stocks from the two countries. The treaty is designed to prevent overfishing and to ensure that each country receives the benefits of its salmon production. It also pledges both countries to work together to rebuild weak wild salmon stocks.

The Commission office provides support services for the annual meetings between the two nations. Representatives of the countries meet to share information on the status of the runs and agree on annual fishing levels affecting shared salmon stocks, consistent with fishing regimes established in the treaty. The Commission also maintains a scientific and technical staff dedicated specifically to the management of the sockeye and pink salmon runs originating in the Fraser River, the harvest of which has long been shared by the two countries.

“By not funding the Pacific Salmon Commission, the United States is failing to meet an international treaty obligation, and is jeopardizing Northwest salmon recovery efforts in Puget Sound and the Columbia River. This could be the first step in unraveling all the progress achieved under the treaty over the past two decades” said W. Ron Allen, a U.S Commissioner and chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.

“This funding crisis is causing alarm and great concern among the fishery managers and fishers on both sides of the border,” Allen said. Within Puget Sound, the most immediate impact is on the management of the shared Fraser River sockeye fishery that occurs each summer in the Straits and northern Puget Sound. Already, the Commission’s efforts to stretch existing funds have led to reduced sampling of fisheries, thereby reducing the ability of managers to monitor the run size and adjust fishing schedules. “This increases the risk of mistakes that can hurt the weaker components of the run, while increasing the potential that the U.S. fishery will not be able to harvest its full share of the stronger components as negotiated under the provisions of the treaty,” Allen said.

Over the longer term, the loss of bilateral cooperation made possible by this treaty would have a severe impact on salmon fisheries from Alaska to Oregon, and may undermine support for the massive efforts throughout the Northwest to rebuild salmon stocks.

“Loss of the treaty would mean our ability to manage chinook fisheries coastwide would be dramatically impaired, putting at risk the sacrifices made by local communities in the Puget Sound and Columbia River basin to restore stocks listed under the Endangered Species Act,” said Larry Cassidy, U.S. Commissioner from the State of Washington.

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For more information, contact: W. Ron Allen, U.S. Commissioner (Chair), (360) 683-1109; Roland Rousseau, U.S. Commissioner, (503) 690-2731; Larry Cassidy, U.S. Commissioner, (360) 693-6951; Jim Heffernan, U.S. Finance and Administration Committee, (503) 731-1287; Craig Bowhay or Tony Meyer, NWIFC, (360) 438-1180.

Funding Facts, FY2003 and FY2004

Department of State, International Fisheries Commissions

FY 2003 Appropriation – Department of State, International Fisheries Commissions

FY 2003 President’s Budget Request: $19,780,000

FY 2003 Omnibus Appropriation Act Level: $16,989,000

Difference: $2,791,000

The difference consists of the total elimination of funds for the Pacific Salmon Commission ($2,225,000) and several other smaller commissions ($566,000).

FY2003 Reprogram Request by Department of State

The Department of State submitted a request to Congress to reprogram $1,728,000 within its International Fisheries Commissions account to cover minimal and immediate needs of the unfunded commissions. Of this amount, $1,344,000 was intended for the Pacific Salmon Commission for sharply reduced activities and associated U.S. Section expenditures that had occurred under continuing resolution prior to the passage of the Omnibus appropriation in February, 2003. The remainder ($384,000) was for other unfunded commissions.

The reprogramming request has been approved by the House Appropriations Sub-Committee, but in the Senate, the Appropriations Sub-Committee only approved $400,000 of the reprogramming request, which falls far short of the basic needs of the unfunded Commissions. The full amount requested ($1,728,000) is needed for the FY03 operations of the unfunded Commissions and also to set the basis for FY04 expenditures during any period covered under continuing resolution.

Due to the delay in approval of the reprogramming (and possible Congressional refusal), the Pacific Salmon Commission will soon have no choice but to discontinue operations, placing the Pacific Salmon Treaty and all its benefits in serious jeopardy. Canada is aware of this situation and has transmitted a diplomatic note to the United States to further elevate this issue.

FY 2004 Funding for International Fisheries Commissions

The House has developed its FY 2004 Budget for the International Fisheries Commissions. The level that has been set is again only $16,989,000 compared to the Presidents request of $20,043,000. Accompanying language directs full funding for two Commissions and a payback of reprogrammed funds which would leave only $1,313,000 for all other International Fisheries Commissions, including the Pacific Salmon Commission. The following funding is needed for International Fisheries Commissions to compensate for the FY 2003 shortfall and provide full funding of the President’s request) for the International fisheries Commissions in FY 2004:

President’s Request (full funding for all commissions): $20,043,000

Payback for Reprogramming of FY03 Funds: $1,728,000

Remainder of FY03 U.S. Obligation for Pacific Salmon Commission: $600,000

Total: $22,371,000