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The 7 Myths About The Canada-US Albacore Tuna Treaty - The Canadian View Canada, January 16, 13

The United States and Canada have enjoyed a long-standing cooperative relationship regarding North Pacific albacore tuna. Canada and the United States have mutually benefited from the partnership approach inherent in the Canada - United States Pacific Albacore Tuna Treaty since its inception in 1981. The Treaty has been an excellent example of cross-border cooperation in the interests of fishermen, processors and the general public in both countries.
Under the Treaty, fishermen from the United States and Canada may harvest albacore tuna in the other country’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Fishermen from one country may also land their catches and conduct other activities in certain designated ports in the other country - six in the United States and six in Canada.
In 2004, the two countries began operating under a three-year limitation regime to control fishing effort. Provisions in the Treaty amendments permitted this limitation regime to continue for another two years (2007 and 2008) under further reduced levels of effort.
A new three-year limitation regime was agreed to by both countries and came into effect in 2009. Following the expiration of the 2009 - 2011 limitation regime, the Government of the United States informed Canada in March 2012 that it was not in a position to negotiate a new fishing regime for the 2012 season. Canada was disappointed with this position.
We wish to address the various myths that have arisen regarding the Treaty and see our two governments build on a shared history of success and come to agreement in the months ahead on a fishing regime for 2013.
Myth 1:

“Canada has been increasing its fishing effort in the United States.”

Canadian fishing effort in the U.S. EEZ has declined considerable from its peak in 2001. Since the limitation regime between Canada and the United States came into force in 2004, fishing effort has been reduced 27%, from a maximum of 680 vessel-months in 2004 to the equivalent of 495 vessel-months from 2009 to 2011 when the vessel-month system was replaced by a standardized season of 4.5 months for 110 Canadian vessels.
In 2001, Canadian vessels fished a high of 7,324 vessel-days in the US EEZ. Canadian effort in the US EEZ averaged 5,333 vessel-days per year, with a low of 3,848 vessel-days in 2010 since the limitation regimes were put in place (2004-2011).
Myth 2:
“Without Canadian albacore harvesters in U.S. waters, American harvesters will catch and land more albacore.”
The preliminary data for 2012, during which time Canadian vessels were not permitted to fish for North Pacific albacore in the U.S. EEZ, shows that the American catch of albacore was very similar to recent years.
Myth 3:
“Data collected during the absence of a fishing regime for only one season is insufficient to determine the effects of the Treaty on the harvesting and marketing of albacore from the U.S. EEZ.”
Strong data on catch and landings are available and have been finalized by the bi-national Data Working Group established under the Treaty negotiation process. Moreover, the extensive work undertaken through the bi-national Economic Working Group has produced reliable outputs to assess the benefits of the Treaty to the Canadian and American economies.
While the work of the Economic Working Group does not address all economic facets of this complex industry, the data collected to date certainly allows for progress to be made towards negotiating a new fishing regime.
Myth 4:
“Canada is disproportionately benefiting from the Treaty.”
It’s true that in recent years Canada has been harvesting the majority of its catch in the U.S. EEZ, while the U.S. has had little effort in the Canadian zone. However, North Pacific albacore tuna is a highly migratory species whose migration patterns along the Pacific Northwest vary as a result of environmental, oceanographic and other factors. These unpredictable changes in migration result in shifts in the fishing grounds. The Treaty allows harvesters to ensure they can target albacore regardless of which side of the border they are in abundance at any point during the fishing season. As has been pointed out by U.S. industry, American fishermen were the original proponents of the Treaty as they wanted to maintain access to their traditional fishing grounds for albacore in Canada.
Fishermen in both countries’ will benefit from the stability that comes from knowing they can “go where the fish are” along the Pacific Northwest.

Myth 5:
“The fishing regime has been ineffective in reducing and controlling Canadian effort”
The first limitation regime was in place from 2004-2008 and utilized a vessel-months system to control effort. Under that regime, Canadian vessel- months declined 46% from 627 in 2004 to 338 in 2008.
The second limitation regime, in place from 2009 -2011, set a fixed fishing season at 4.5 months for a maximum of 110 Canadian vessels each year.
Canada had no more than 110 vessels harvesting albacore in the U.S. EEZ in any year of the limitation regime. In fact, no more that 109 vessels fished in US waters during the term of the second regime.

Myth 6:
“Canadian permits for access in the U.S. EEZ have become a highly valued commodity, creating pressure on individual Canadian vessel operators to be overly aggressive in their fishing methods in order to remain profitable.”
Only 15 of 110 USA68 licenses were transferred prior to the start of the 2011 season. A change in control of a USA68 license may occur for a variety of reasons, including vessel ownership change, permanent vessel replacement, and/or “leasing” (where a license is transferred to a different vessel each year). Of the 15 USA68 license transfers that occurred prior to the 2011 season, only a portion appear to have been temporarily leased for the season. Therefore, the vast majority of USA 68 license holders do not have the extra costs of leasing a license and would not be included in that category.
That being said, Canada is willing to show flexibility to resolve, to the extent practicable, the outstanding concerns regarding license transfers.

Myth 7:

“There is insufficient data to document the extent of Canadian vessels fishing in the U.S. EEZ and landing in U.S. ports”
Canada and the United States, through the Data Working Group established during the Treaty negotiation process in November 2011, have provided all available information on Canadian catches in the U.S. EEZ and landings in U.S. ports. The reciprocal information for US catches and landings in Canada has also been made available to the Data Working Group.
Thanks to the time and labor intensive work undertaken by the members of the Data Working Group, finalized catch and landings data going back to 1995 is now available to both Treaty delegation. Although a Canadian fishery for albacore has occurred since 1939, fishery statistics prior to 1995 are considered an unreliable record of Canadian fishery activity because they are derived from limited and biased sources, they lack spatial and temporal resolution (i.e., daily position by vessel), and they lack any measure of effort. Fishery statistics reported since 1995 are compiled from hails, sales slips, and logbooks and are considered the most reliable estimates of fishery activity because they have high spatial and temporal resolution in catch and effort. Moreover, sales slip weights provide are used to provide an independent validation of logbook data. These data are obtained from all vessels active in the fishery in a given year and are validated against sale slip weights collected by the Provincial Government of British Columbia.
It should also be noted, that there are also shortcoming with related to U.S. data, particularly related to low logbook coverage prior to 2005. However, the Data Working Group is confident in its finalized numbers for the Canadian and American catches and landings of albacore tuna from 1995- 2011.