Published Date: 2009/1/6 16:00:00 By Terri Theodore The Canadian Press VANCOUVER — The U.S. government will hand over millions of dollars to compensate the B.C. fishing industry for dramatic cuts to salmon fisheries. The US$30 million salve is one of several changes that took effect in the Pacific Salmon Treaty at the beginning of this year, with the aim of ensuring the sustainability of declining Pacific salmon stocks in Canada and the U.S. Most of the U.S. funding will be for the loss in the chinook salmon catch off the west coast of Vancouver Island. The federal and U.S. governments will also each contribute $7.5 million for other programs aimed at helping the recovery of disappearing salmon stocks along the Pacific coast. The most controversial change, and the one that proved the most difficult to negotiate, was the significant reduction to the chinook harvest in southeast Alaska and off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Salmon stocks often originate in the rivers of one country but are subject to the ocean fisheries of the other. As much as 75 per cent of the chinook caught off Vancouver Island are bound for U.S. waters and some of those salmon are so depressed they're listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Canada has not listed the salmon as an endangered species. The renewed treaty will mean a 30 per cent reduction in the fishery this year off Vancouver Island and a 15 per cent cut for Alaskan fishermen. As part of the agreement, the Americans are putting up the money to support a transition in B.C. fisheries hurt by the conservation measures. Paul Sprout, regional director general for the Pacific Region with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said they intend to consult with troll fishermen and others to try to mitigate the impact of the losses. “Yes, one of the aspects that we would look at is utilizing the money to retire licences for those individuals that are interested in exiting the fishery under these circumstances,” Sprout said. He expects a compensation program to be in place by 2010. But John Hughes, president of the Gulf Trollers Association, said trollers won't be the only fishermen who may have to live with less because of the changes. Hughes said that a complicated total allowable catch system means trollers will always be given a 22 per cent allocation of fish – it just may be a different species of fish. Thirty-eight per cent of the allowable catch is designated to gillnet fishermen and the remaining 40 per cent goes to seine fishermen. “It's a reduction to some degree for everyone,” said Hughes. “Obviously there is an immediate impact on the west coast of Vancouver Island because your going to have those fish not being caught and processed in that area.” But Hughes said many fishermen know there has to be change in the fishery if it's going to be preserved. “We're going to have to do things differently. The devil in that process is the details of what we have to do differently.” Sprout said if these depressed populations of fish are protected now then in the long run they'll rebound and grow to a number that supports the fishery. The changes to five chapters of the treaty took effect Jan. 1 and include new sockeye harvest agreements on the rivers shared by Yukon and Alaska, and an agreement on a catch ceiling for U.S. fishermen for Fraser River chum. Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said the renewed pact also promotes increased co-operation between the two countries. “This is a crucial agreement that will help people on both sides of the border benefit from sustainable fishing opportunities for years to come,” she said in a news release. The Pacific Salmon Treaty was first signed in 1985 to provide the framework allowing Canada and the U.S. to jointly conserve and manage migratory Pacific salmon. The treaty has at times been a source of considerable friction between the two countries. Don Kowal, with the Pacific Salmon Commission, said in the past fishermen on both sides of the border were taking their maximum allowable catch even if the stock was depressed. That's changed. “It's abundance-based management now. It's a concept that doesn't allow one country more than another to capture more salmon that is bound for the country.” The latest treaty remain in place until 2018.