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Marine Salmon Interactions Program

North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission 17th Annual Meeting in Niigata, Japan

Representatives of Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States, the primary states of origin for salmon stocks in the North Pacific Ocean, met in Niigata, Japan, 2-6 November 2009, for the 17th Annual Meeting of the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC).

NPAFC agencies responsible for the planning and execution of enforcement activities met to coordinate enforcement efforts to detect and deter illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing in the Convention Area. Joint long-range aircraft patrols and coordination with each Party's enforcement vessels are used to detect illegal fishing.

Member countries conducted 188 ship patrol days and 279 aerial patrol hours in the Convention Area in 2009. This year, no NPAFC Parties sighted any vessels suspected of illegal fishing, although Taiwan (NPAFC observer) sighted one vessel with driftnets deployed.

This year's results may reflect a reduction in IUU fishing in the North Pacific and may be a result of significant increase in patrol efforts in recent years. Due to the continued threat of high-seas fishing for salmon in the Convention Area, all Parties reaffirmed their commitment to maintain 2010 enforcement activities at high levels as a deterrent to the threat of potential unauthorized fishing activities.

Scientific research by NPAFC Parties in 2009 focused on trends in marine production of salmon stocks, their population structure, and diversity in North Pacific marine ecosystems. NPAFC scientists also met to further their understanding of climate change impacts on salmon stocks and their ecosystems. Cooperative research by NPAFC scientists over the past several years has covered a broad range of issues helping to answer many perplexing questions about salmon abundance.

The NPAFC cooperative research program Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS) documented ocean and atmospheric changes and other biological and ecological dynamics affecting salmonid production. Results of many studies on these issues reported at a recent BASIS symposium are now available in Bulletin Number 5 at the NPAFC website (

Other research issues considered included 26 new scientific documents submitted by the Parties for review and discussion by the Committee on Science, Research, and Statistics (CSRS). These documents included reports on new genetic and otolith marking techniques used to identify the origins of salmon and the intermixing of the stocks in the Pacific Ocean, new high-tech tags used to track migratory behavior of salmon on the high seas, reports providing information on long-term data-sets from specific parts of the North Pacific, and forecasting techniques for predicting strength of returning salmon runs to specific areas.

Reports by Russian scientists based on extensive ocean surveys in 2008-09 tracking the abundance of juvenile and immature pink salmon originating from 2007 brood parents accurately predicted the record return of this species to several subdistricts of Russian Far East waters. A report by U.S. scientists also documented development of a forecast model that accurately forecast the commercial harvest of pink salmon in most years in Southeast Alaska.

In 2007, the NPAFC was awarded a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in support of a long-term, integrated research and monitoring plan for Pacific salmon. This plan synthesizes past research and identifies critical areas for new research to understand impacts of future climate and ocean changes on the population dynamics of Pacific salmon. The project has been completed and the final report, "A long-term research and monitoring plan (LRMP) for Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) in the North Pacific Ocean," is available from the NPAFC website.

Unprecedented high catches of Pacific salmon continue in most areas of the North Pacific. Only at the southeastern part of their range off British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California and in some Western Alaska river systems do Pacific salmon stocks remain in low abundance. The previous all-time record harvest of salmon from around the Pacific Rim was 1.02 million metric tons (t) in 2007, with over 80% composed of pink and chum salmon. Based on preliminary analysis by NPAFC Parties, the 2009 salmon harvest is likely to exceed the previous record and may reach 1.1 million t. Russia's record salmon catch alone in 2009 was 540,000 t.

There were 22 U.S. delegates at the Niigata meeting. Doug Mecum, Acting Alaska Regional Administrator, was head of the U.S Delegation. Alaska Fisheries Science Center delegates included Loh-Lee Low, the U.S Point of Contact for CSRS, and Auke Bay Laboratories scientists Ed Farley, Bill Heard, and Jeff Guyon. Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Jim Balsiger of the United States was elected by the Commission as the next NPAFC President.

By Bill Heard

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