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North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission Sixteenth Annual Meeting

Representatives of Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States, the primary states of origin for Pacific salmon stocks in the North Pacific Ocean, met in Seattle, Washington, 17-21 November 2008 for the Sixteenth Annual Meeting of the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC).

Head of the U.S. delegation during the meeting was Doug Mecum, NMFS, Acting Alaska Regional Administrator with able assistance from U.S. Commissioners Gray Smith from the State of Washington and Rowland Maw from Alaska. A highlight of the annual meeting was the U.S. reception held at the Seattle Aquarium and organized by Commissioners Mecum and Smith.

The NPAFC brings together leading salmon scientists from each member country in a multilateral forum to review recent scientific research on Pacific salmon and to plan for coordinated and cooperative future studies. The meeting also provides enforcement officials from each of the Parties to plan their activities to continue efforts to minimize illegal, unreported, and unregulated salmon fishing on the high seas in the North Pacific Ocean Convention Area covered by the NPAFC Treaty.

Regulated commercial fisheries for salmon occurs within each member countries' jurisdiction. The total catch of Pacific salmon from all five countries in 2007 reached an all-time recorded high level of just over 1.0 million metric tons. Russian catches in 2007 were also at all-time high levels, especially for pink salmon from eastern Sakhalin Island where several new very large hatcheries are now in production. Sockeye and Chinook salmon catches in Kamchatka were also good.

While U.S. catches in Alaska were high, catch trends in Pacific Northwest states were poor. Korean catches were down, while Japanese catches were high.

Regional fluctuations in catch and abundance of salmon is an area of renewed study by NPAFC scientists, especially regarding different ocean migration and distribution patterns of stocks from member countries. Possible impacts of climate change on ocean ecology may be affecting these regional differences. One area of much needed research is more information on salmon ecology during the winter period in the ocean. Planning is under way to undertake winter surveys to help fill this knowledge gap.

The Committee on Scientific Research and Statistics (CSRS) met to review reports of working groups on stock assessment, salmon marking, stock identification, the Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS) Program, and a newly formed working group on high-seas salmon tagging.

In conjunction with the NPAFC Secretariat the working group on salmon tagging reported on the initial use of new high-seas salmon tags with an NPAFC logo to be used in future cooperative international research. A total of 1,596 high-seas salmonids were tagged and released in 2008 during Japanese and U.S. research surveys.

Yukimasa Ishida of Japan served as chairman of the CSRS, and Loh-Lee Low of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) was head of the CSRS delegation of 11 scientists from the United States. Other AFSC scientists participating in CSRS deliberations included Ed Farley, Jamal Moss, and Bill Heard of Auke Bay Laboratories.

High-seas enforcement efforts by NPAFC member countries in 2008 included 118 ship patrol days and 371 aerial patrol hours in Convention Area waters. Eleven high-seas drift net vessels were cited, two were apprehended, and the international right of boarding was conducted on two vessels believed to be of Indonesian registration. One of the apprehended vessels was fined US$7,000. The catch was seized and sold, the vessel was seized and auctioned off, and the nets and other gear destroyed.

By Bill Heard

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