Sustaining North American Salmon: Perspectives Across Regions and Disciplines

Chapter 16: The Pacific Salmon Dispute: Rationalizing a Dysfunctional Joint Venture

Robert McKelvey and Kathleen A. Miller


On 30 June 1999, the Canadian and U.S. governments signed a new Pacific salmon treaty that they hope will end a period of crisis and disarray in the efforts of the two nations to coordinate management of their North Pacific salmon fisheries. The recent turmoil was part of the long and rocky history of alternation between cooperation and discord in this arena. These fisheries are inherently binational because anadromous Pacific salmon migrate across state and international boundaries during their ocean phase. The need for cooperative management arises because harvesters in one jurisdiction can intercept salmon heading to spawn in the rivers of another jurisdiction. As is so often the case with such fisheries, cooperation has proved to be elusive and difficult to maintain. In this paper, we explore the sources of this instability, using game theoretic concepts to describe the negotiation process, and discuss the new agreement in light of this analysis.