Tag Archives: salmon

The role sea otters play in saving salmon – a benefit for the Southern Resident orcas

Photo Credit: Alaska Magazine

In a marine protected area off of Vancouver Island, Canada, a rich ecosystem supports breeding and migrating seals and sea lions – and at least one adorable sea otter, Ollie. Southern resident killer whales pursue the adult salmon that hide among the kelp fronds, and the mammal eating transient orcas hunt the seals and sea lions.
Luckily, nothing seems interested in eating Ollie, to the relief of his fans who follow his Facebook page.
Admittedly, not everyone loves these furry machines that need a quarter of their body per day to keep warm, even with their luxurious coats. They consume over a hundred different species of primarily bottom dwelling invertebrates, but come into conflict with fishermen over the sea cucumbers, urchins, clams, abalone etc that have a fairly high market value.
When the otters move into a region they do have an impact on those fisheries, but what they give back to the environment makes them worth their weight in gold – their foraging habits quickly restore kelp beds where juvenile salmon hide on the journey to the open ocean. Each female Chinook salmon that successfully returns to spawn carries as many as 17,000 eggs, so each fish saved by adequate kelp beds can have a significant impact.
Via Sea Otter Conservation

Juvenile salmon prefer to use kelp bed prefer to use kelp bed habitat over bare areas, where they swim in the middle of the canopy as they migrate. The kelp forests also provide cover for the forage fish that fuel the salmon’s journey.
In the Puget Sound and greater Salish Sea there are few otters, and the kelp forests are in trouble:

 Dr. Tom Mumford, Washington Department of Natural Resources, reports that floating kelp beds have all but disappeared from southern Puget Sound. Declines are also reported generally from the Salish Sea, including British Columbia, Canada.
Because of the ecosystem functions provided by kelps, the consequences of declines to kelp beds in Puget Sound are not limited to the direct effects on kelp populations, but influence indirectly the many species that depend on the presence of these forests. (Puget Sound Restoration Fund).

Bull Kelp from Betsy Peabody on Vimeo.

Wouldn’t it be great to have the fluffy otters helping in the effort to restore kelp forests?

Where you may be able to see otters in Puget Sound:

In 2006, the distribution of the majority of the Washington sea otter stock ranged from
Pillar Point in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, west to Cape Flattery and as far south as Cape Elizabeth
on the outer Olympic Peninsula coast. However, scattered individuals (usually one or
two individuals at a time) have been seen outside of this range.
… Sightings around the San Juan Islands, near Deception Pass, off Dumas Bay, off the Nisqually River, and in southern Puget Sound near Squaxin and Hartstene Islands have also been reported.

Photo Credit: popsugar.com.au

 
 
 

Another Southern Resident killer whale is losing body condition, and researchers are concerned about the pregnant females

K25 has lost body condition

Will we lose Scoter (J25) next? NOAA and partner organizations are watching him carefully as they consider options to increase the volume of Chinook salmon that can be made available to the orcas. Biologists report that it is not unusual for a male to die once their mothers are gone, especially when fish are scarce. Scoter’s mother died in 2017.
Also of concern is the question of how viable the expected calves will be, based on data that show 70% of the Southern Resident orca births have failed to produce healthy calves during recent years. (Read more on the pregnancy failures),
NOAA’s announcement:

Scientists from NOAA’s Fisheries Southwest Fisheries Science Center are currently working in collaboration with SR3: SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation and Research The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer to collect aerial photogrammetry images in an ongoing study to monitor the growth and body condition of endangered Southern Resident killer whales. These data support management actions to ensure an adequate supply of their Chinook salmon prey. In the shorter term, the aerial perspective also offers important insights into the health of individual whales. Earlier this month, this collaborative study provided key information on the condition of an ailing young whale, J50 The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer , and her mother, J16. In recent days, the photogrammetry team have documented another SRKW individual to be in notably poorer body condition compared to recent years.
K25, a 27-year old adult male has been documented in aerial photographs since 2008.
This year, his body profile is thinner than previous years (see images [above]). This change coincides with the loss of his mother, K13 in 2017, and likely reflects the challenges he faces without her help in capturing and sharing prey. Males rely on help from their mothers, and other family members, to meet their increased energy demands, and long term demographic monitoring The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer has shown that adult males have an increased mortality risk following their mother’s death, highlighting K25’s current vulnerability.
Offering a more hopeful outlook for this group, aerial images collected this week have also documented K27, K25’s sister, to be heavily pregnant, along with a number of other females in all three pods (J, K and L) within the population. Whales carry their baby weight below the ribcage, just like humans, enabling later-term pregnancies to be reliably documented from aerial images of body shape (see images [above]).
Unfortunately, there is currently a high rate of reproductive failure The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer in this population, and K27 has been documented to have aborted a fetus The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer in recent years. Follow-up monitoring by our colleagues at the Center for Whale Research The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer will determine the success of these pregnancies

Seaworld, salmon, senators and saving orcas – NOAA’s role has limits

Playful whales in happier times.

“There are no silver bullets”

The patience and equanimity of the NOAA officials was impressive at the recent public meetings that were held to discuss the status of the endangered Southern Resident killer whales. After sharing details, the staff opened the mic to the public – NOAA was there to listen, and listen they did as the public poured out concerns, demands, and judgments primarily on the lack of sufficient salmon and on the presence of SeaWorld in the medical treatment given to the now deceased orca calf, Scarlet (J50).
Wild salmon and captive cetaceans are only partly under NOAA’s authority so a few details may have escaped mention during the meetings.

SeaWorld’s role

SeaWorld has more than earned their place as the captivity whipping boy, and they deserve the huge pit of costly reparations that need to be made to save the endangered Southern Resident orcas.
But the Salish Sea is an unofficial sanctuary where captures and harming of almost everything that swims there is either regulated or protected. As the result of a lawsuit, SeaWorld is specifically forbidden from participating in captures or keeping a whale taken from Washington State waters. They were run out of Alaska when they tried there, and British Columbia, Canada also gave them the boot.

This file photo shows orca whales from the J and K pods swim past a small research boat on Puget Sound in view of downtown Seattle. (AP Photo/NOAA Fisheries Service, Candice Emmons, file).

Does the fact that SeaWorld contributed to the whale population loss mean that SeaWorld shouldn’t help fix the situation? Of course not – that would be like preferring to die over being saved by a doctor because of ethnicity, religion, or gender bias. Whether we like it or not, SeaWorld has expertise in marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation and regularly saves the lives of the whales and dolphins that turn up on our shores.

The salmon question

NOAA’s jurisdiction over salmon is complicated, in part thanks to President Nixon’s feud decades ago with his Secretary of the Interior. Nixon put the newly created National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under the purview of the Department of Commerce instead of the Interior:
From Science Magazine:

President Barack Obama today confirmed the rumored political shenanigans surrounding the creation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 4 decades ago.
Give you a few examples. There are five different entities dealing with housing. There are more than a dozen agencies dealing with food safety. My favorite example—which I mentioned in last year’s State of the Union address—as it turns out, the Interior Department is in charge of salmon in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in saltwater. (Laughter.) If you’re wondering what the genesis of this was, apparently, it had something to do with President Nixon being unhappy with his Interior Secretary for criticizing him about the Vietnam War. And so he decided not to put NOAA in what would have been a more sensible place.

 
NOAA has done the best conceivable job in the effort to save Scarlet, and while they work with SeaWorld the language NOAA uses in the discussions is straightforward and to the point.
It may be belated, but NOAA has stepped up to the plate.

Congress is paying attention

Great news – on September 10th Senator Murray and other senators quietly announced that the ongoing legislative effort to protect salmon-killing and unneeded dams that passed in the House basically died an ignoble death in the Senate.
From Save Our Wild Salmon:

As a result of our/your collective work, politics and policy in the Northwest is shifting. Kudos are especially due to Senator Patty Murray who led this regional fight to stop the Salmon Extinction Act (HR 3144) and Rider (Section 506). Senator Murray recognized these bills for what they were: harmful to salmon and harmful to regional processes and discussions occurring today to address the problems that face salmon, orca and Northwest communities. HR 3144 and Section 506 are both highly divisive to the Northwest communities that must work together on shared solutions to common problems. Thanks and praise are also due to other key elected officials who worked vigilantly to prevent these bills from becoming law, including Reps. Adam Smith, Pramila Jayapal, Earl Blumenauer, Derek Kilmer, Denny Heck, and others.
Importantly, when HR 3144 came to the House floor for a vote, all the Democratic lawmakers in Oregon and Washington voted the right way – against it – with one exception – Rep. Kurt Schrader from Oregon.

 
From Senator Murray’s website:

The future of the Columbia River is critically important to the Pacific Northwest economy and to our way of life, which is why I have long insisted that we keep politics and partisanship out of this and allow the ongoing legal process to play out. I am glad this deal does exactly that. Nothing in this report, and nothing in the bill itself, would insert Congress or partisan politics into the process or would interfere with the court-mandated comprehensive review that everyone can participate in and accounts for all uses of our river system.
“Throughout this process, it has been and will continue to be important that we make sure scientific questions remain in the hands of scientists and not politicians. I continue to stand ready to work with any Republicans who are willing to work with me to forge consensus around these important Pacific Northwest issues and not just politicize the process, facts, and science.

 
Saving these whales is going to take all of us working together but Congress can do the most when it comes to turning things around quickly. Ken Balcomb at the Center for Whale Research thinks we have only 5 more years to turn the salmon famine around before the whale population won’t be able to rebound.
He also thinks that a few of the orcas are pregnant…and they need food now.

 
References:
https://www.facebook.com/NOAAFisheriesWestCoast/?tn-str=k*F
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/whales/keiko/world.html
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2012/01/why-noaa-commerce-department
https://www.murray.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2018/9/senator-murray-deal-keeps-politics-out-of-columbia-river-system-operations
https://www.murray.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2018/9/senator-murray-deal-keeps-politics-out-of-columbia-river-system-operations
https://www.whaleresearch.com

Killing seals to save orcas is dangerously short-sighted and won’t work

 
Not that long ago, fishermen killed Southern Resident killer whales because the whales were eating Chinook salmon…let that sink in while we explore whether killing marine mammals has ever worked in the long haul to save salmon populations.
In a few days the annual slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, will begin its six-month bloodbath. Among the reasons that fishermen hunt down and kill dolphins is the industry’s deeply held belief that marine mammals compete for fish.
Can that happen in the Salish Sea? As disturbing as it is to think about, the answer is yes – dolphins and porpoises have no substantial protections and their “takes” are managed by NOAA.

Japan’s example

After countless decades of the slaughter and subsequent reduced dolphin populations, Japan’s fisheries catch has spiraled down to an all-time low. Japan’s solution? They’ve added even more dolphin species to the kill list this year.
By the 1970s Japan had already driven the indigenous Japanese sea lion to extinction and to this day they continue to cull Steller sea lions annually.

Western Steller Sea Lions are listed as vulnerable in the Threatened Wildlife of Japan Red Data Book. Hattori and Yamamura (2014) reported that over 200 Steller Sea Lions were culled annually between 1960-1993 to reduce predation on commercial fish stocks.
Recent work indicates that the annual culling was then reduced to a limit of 116/year until 2010 at which time a new 5 year quota of 1,030 culled Sea Lions was imposed. This resulted in an increased annual average take (Matsuda et al. 2015).

 
Despite the culling, the Japanese fishing industry is on a steep decline – their catch of 12.8 million tons of fish in 1984 was down to 4.3 million tons in 2017, an all time low.

Killing seals to save a few fish

If the concept of killing off marine mammals to leave more salmon for fisheries has failed in Japan (where salmon catch declined by 27% last year), why would we assume that culling marine mammals would succeed in restoring Chinook salmon for the endangered Southern Resident orcas?
With proposals on the table to extend the killing to all pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) in Puget Sound and other areas of the Salish Sea, how long will it be until demands are made to cull dolphins and porpoises as well?
Does the idea of killing one kind of marine mammal to save another make any sense whatsoever when there is no evidence that it will succeed longterm?
It may seem unthinkable, but if we allow the government to permit the killing of one marine mammal species to save another by attempting to control fish predation, it is a slippery slope to go from seals and sea lions to dolphins.

Harbor seal  Photo Credit: Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge
Yet that is a solution being bandied about by special interest groups concerned with the Chinook salmon population – they want to take out sea lions and harbor seals as a quick solution to what is really a complex problem.
There may be some logic to culling if the seals and sea lions were directly eating the orcas, though even if that were the case and we decided to cull orca predators we would have to start with the most effective and damaging predator.
And that would be us.

Southern Resident orcas were once killed by fishery interests

There are living members of the Southern Resident orcas who were once shot at, harpooned, and subjected to the noise of seal bombs by fishers who resented the competition for salmon. The US Navy gunned down an entire population of fish-eating orcas in Iceland to “help” the fishing industry there.
As the Southern Resident orca population decreased in the Salish Sea due to culling (either by being killed or captured for display, similar to what goes on in Taiji), Chinook salmon still continued to dwindle. Killing the orcas didn’t bring back salmon. Nor will killing pinnipeds.

Dams

But fishing is not the only way that humans are driving the abundance and evolutionary biology of salmon – we have added evolutionary pressures by altering the environment as well.
Dams not only impede the salmon’s journey, but dramatically alter stream and river ecology. Salmon must navigate challenging hatching conditions, endure siltification of their natal streams and rivers, and withstand marginal water temperatures – then survive being flung through the dam turbines on their seaward journey.
They must escape predators that gather at the dams, and the young salmon must cope with the lake conditions present in the manmade reservoirs created by the dams (which gives a huge advantage to some of the predatory fish species and is not natural to the salmon). Finally, the young fish encounter estuaries that are often inadequate in both food and places to hide.
Research shows that the battering the young salmon take on their way to sea increases their mortality while at sea – this means that the debate over how accurate the statistics are on how many smolts initially survive the dams is a small part of the equation since they are more likely to die at sea.

Abstract.—The numbers of Snake River salmon and steelhead Oncorhynchus spp. have substantially declined since the completion of the Columbia River hydrosystem. We used analytical approaches to identify management options for halting the decline of these stocks, such as removal of Snake River dams and improvements to the existing hydrosystem. The benefits these actions are predicted to have in terms of salmon recovery hinge on whether the mortality that takes place in the estuary and early in their ocean residence is related to earlier hydrosystem experience during downstream migration. Evidence from the literature demonstrates numerous mechanisms that would  explain this delayed mortality in relation to a fish’s experience passing through the hydrosystem. Spatial and temporal comparisons of stock performance provide indirect evidence of delayed mortality and evidence that delayed mortality is linked to hydrosystem experience. Recent mark— recapture data also provide evidence of differences in delayed mortality by route of passage through the hydrosystem. The different types of evidence discussed here suggest that the delayed mortality of Snake River fish is related to the hydrosystem.

 
On their return trip, the salmon must battle the same conditions, and again must make it past those dams, increasing the time they must spend in getting to their natal streams.
And then there are the bears…do we kill them too?

Photo Credit: Tahitia Hicks / AP

The Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force

Government tends to balk when the cost of acting is high – whether that cost is in dollars, jobs, energy, or security – because it is also our government’s job to protect us and to oversee the growth of our nation in the long term. Our government tends to favor a cost/benefit analysis, and this can be detrimental when swift action is called for with respect to environmental issues, such as in taking decisive action to restore our salmon fishery.
For years Washington State has performed controlled culling of the sea lions that congregate at certain dams but only after other methods were exhausted. Now Congress has bills in the works which will allow loose control over whether the killing is humane and reduces oversight as it increases the number of animals that can be culled.
Governor Jay Inslee’s establishment of the Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery and Task Force is an inspiring and bold move to come to terms with conflicting beliefs, and it’s possibly our last opportunity to step back, look at the big picture, and think about future generations.
The process has underscored to me how open and willing those of us who live in this region are to pitch in and look for resolution when it comes to salmon and orcas, a subject where the potential for conflict is high. Our personal lifestyles and regional self-interests are deeply challenged as we weigh the needs of the whales against our own – yet what has become clear is that we are unified in a desire to “get ‘er done”.
We seem to be on the road to solutions, the quickest of which would be to increase salmon passage on the lower Snake River dams.
But let’s leave the seals and sea lions alone.

Reference links:
http://factsanddetails.com/japan/cat24/sub159/item937.htmlhttp:/
/www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201804270053.htmlhttp:/
/www.iucnredlist.org/details/8239/0

War of the Whales: A True Story

Watch the live stream of the Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force meeting (8/7/18)


Thanks to Haze Sommer for forwarding the links to today’s live stream of this event.
9 am https://www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2018081016
2:40 https://t.co/L936wm5HYz

Saving orcas with a salmon cannon – can it even be done? (video)

Human ingenuity brought us the ‘salmon cannon’, designed to propel salmon over dams – but is it efficient enough to bring Chinook populations back to the levels needed for the Southern Resident orcas?


Over-fishing and management mistakes have caused biological mayhem for salmon, and if we want robust wild fish in the future we need to restore the environmental blocks to their survival. These include habitat restoration, contaminant abatement, and dams.
Salmon cannons may be a genius – if hilarious – solution for moving salmon and a good tool to help the remaining wild salmon navigate the dams, but one of the most urgent things the wild Chinook salmon – and the Southern Resident orcas that rely upon them – need is unfettered access to the native spawning grounds.
For more information please go to Damsense.org.

 

Congress plans to kill male California sea lions and undermine NOAA Fisheries management

Killing the animals that co-evolved with salmon won’t help restore fish populations – we need to remove just a few of the 15 dams on one of the rivers that flow into the Columbia River.

Female California sea lions remain in southern California and points south, all year. Photo credit: NOAA

Male California sea lions migrate south in the breeding season, and some stop in the Columbia River to eat salmon on the way down to California.     Photo credit: Bridget Samuels via Flickr

A branded male sea lion. Photo credit: Pillip Colla

Following the breeding season, male California sea lions leave the Channel Islands and other rookeries and migrate north, eventually seeking out protected inland waterways in the winter. The females remain in the general region of the rookeries, and so aren’t among the sea lions that Congress aims to wipe out.
The crime? Eating salmon that congregate at dams – specifically those on the Columbia and Willamette river systems. Two bills – one that passed in the House of Representatives, and another working its way through the Senate – remove any semblance of management and open the door to wholesale slaughter of pinnepeds.
Presently the fisheries services must prove that a sea lion is actually eating salmon before he is euthanized. This involves branding the animal if he lacks identifying marks, then keeping track of him.
To get around that, the new bills define ‘identifying marks’ as being in the river past more than 112 miles from the ocean. In other words, he just has to be a sea lion. For the Senate bill, it just has to be a pinneped, meaning harbor seals. Neither bill specifically excludes the endangered Steller sea lions.
The bills increase the number of animals that can be killed, who can kill them, and where.
The senate bill expands the prey issue from salmon to any species of fish.
The sea lions will still catch salmon entering the rivers, though they may need to work a little harder. It is pointless to try and wipe them all out, even if it made any kind of logical sense. From TDN.com:

[Dr. Naomi Rose], a biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute said Tuesday that killing more sea lions will not reverse the decline of wild salmon runs.

“The main problem is that this is not going to solve the problem,” Naomi Rose, the institute’s marine mammal biologist, said in an interview. “This is an example of lawmakers scapegoating these natural predators to satisfy the anger that constituent groups feel toward salmon decline.”
Rose said wild salmon numbers have fallen mostly due to a loss of habitat and the construction of dams on the Columbia River.

Killing more sea lions could even make the problem worse, she said, because sea lions consume other species of fish that eat young salmon.
The decline of salmon, one of the region’s iconic species, has been attributed to a host of factors: overfishing, habitat destruction, construction of the hydroelectric dams and predation by Caspian terns and cormorants.
Sea lions historically have shared the salmon’s ecosystem, but their numbers have rebounded while the fish runs are still far below their historic, pre-dam levels.
So the mammals’ impact on salmon runs is more pronounced, especially because manmade structures like fish ladders have made it easier for the sea lions to catch them. TDN.com

 
The Senate bill:   https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1702/text
The House bill:   https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2083
Information on California sea lion migration:  Migration Patterns of Adult Male
California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus)
Removing the four lower dams on the Snake River:  DamSense.org

The orcas we know and love are finally back – will they stay all summer?

Southern Resident killer whales in search of Chinook salmon might give up and go somewhere else if they don’t find enough to eat.

Star (J46) in 2016 with her mother Polaris (J28) and brother Dipper (J54). Photo credit: Center for Whale Research

In 47 years of observation by the Center for Whale Research (CWR), this is the first year that there were no sightings of any of the Southern Resident orcas in May. Last summer they were barely in the inland waterways around the San Juan Islands in Washington State or the neighboring Gulf Islands in British Columbia, Canada.
The dismal and depressing realization that what CWR senior scientist Ken Balcomb has been warning everyone who would listen has come to pass;  the lack of a dependable source of Chinook salmon means that these whales will starve to extinction or just change their summer feeding strategy entirely and go elsewhere.
But there is hope, and not just for the whales – people are empowering themselves to help fix the salmon crisis. There’s been a shift in the public psyche as people give up on governments that have dragged their feet for decades, and instead ask themselves what they can do to help…then do it.
Case in point – what is missing from this video?

Where are the hordes of boats? Even when more boats accompanied these whales later there was little to no detectable underwater engine noise reported on hydrophones. The Pacific Whale Watch Association has self-imposed voluntary reductions in speed and distance from the whales and spend more time with the other local orcas – the Transients, which are dynamic and interesting orcas in their own light.
While the boats are dedicated to making it easier for the orcas to capture salmon by reducing engine noise, that is only part of the problem. Salmon have been scarce, and lack of food is affecting both birth rates and maternal deaths.
Two thirds of the pregnancies fail, often in the last months of the 17 month gestation.
From the Center for Whale Research:

The females are getting pregnant; however, two thirds to three quarters of the conceptions apparently result in miscarriage, although this statistic may in part be due to a natural predator response to a limiting carrying capacity of prey.
It is the late-term miscarriages that are most risky to the mother’s survival, and we have seen an increase of these mortalities in recent years with necropsies evidencing birth complications and prolapsed uterus as contributing to death.
This grisly observation argues for a year-round versus episodic sufficient supply of suitable prey to feed these large iconic mammals through a pregnancy cycle – an eight thousand pound pregnant female whale requires about 4-5% of her body weight per day (320-400 pounds!) of suitable prey.


In the summer and fall of 2016 researchers and naturalists saw this happen as a dedicated orca mother and her dependent calf slowly died, leaving only her older calf, Star (J46) alive.
When her mother and last brother (a previous brother had been found dead, having barely survived birth) were losing their struggle against hunger and disease, Star did her best. She brought them whatever salmon she could find and supported them until they took their last breaths.
Read this compelling story on the Stranding Network.

Graphic by Haze Summer

It’s clear – if we don’t restore the salmon we’ll lose the whales along with the dependable spring salmon that characterizes life in the Pacific Northwest.

How to help (more suggestions can be found following at the bottom of the page here):

 
Sign the petition to remove obsolete dams

If the lower Snake River dams were breached, it would double or triple survival rates, restoring many millions of fish to the Columbia Basin.
• Give the orcas a fighting chance to recover by increasing their food supply.
• Breaching costs the state nothing. The first two dams can be breached for the cost of another EIS estimated at $80 million; 5 years to completion

Save Our Wild Salmon

With its historic productivity, low human population, and remaining pockets of large, high, pristine and well protected habitat, the Columbia and Snake River Basin represents our nation’s best opportunity to restore the large numbers of Chinook salmon that endangered, hungry orcas need to survive and recover.

David Suzuki Foundation

The fate of the Salish Sea orcas hangs in the balance.
These 76 orcas — also known as the southern resident killer whales — are Canada’s most endangered marine mammal. Immediate actions are needed to set up refuges, reduce acoustic noise, address pollution and protect chinook salmon, the whales’ primary prey. Climate change and a projected seven-fold increase in tanker traffic from the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion make immediate action more urgent than ever.

The Pacific Salmon Foundation

The Pacific Salmon Foundation was established in 1987 as an independent, nongovernmental, charitable organization to protect, conserve and restore wild Pacific salmon populations in British Columbia and the Yukon. Today, the Foundation galvanizes the breadth of vested stakeholders to support Pacific salmon from stream to estuary to ocean.
The Foundation: 
Raises money and makes grants to volunteer community groups that conserve and restore streams across the province.Manages watershed initiatives in British Columbia that catalyze industry, First Nations, provincial and federal governments, and other non-profits.
Advances science to improve the understanding of factors that limit the abundance of Pacific salmon.
Works with government to prioritize and facilitate strategic salmon conservation in the province.

Killer whales need protected space – lawsuit looms against the current administration’s failure to act

Trump Administration Stalls Protections as Southern Resident Killer Whale Population Drops to 76

Photo credit – Dale Mitchell, Eagle Wind Tours

SEATTLE— “The Center for Biological Diversity filed a legal notice today pressing the Trump administration to protect ocean habitat off California, Oregon and Washington to save the last remaining Southern Resident killer whales.
Today’s notice points out that the administration has unlawfully delayed critical habitat designations sought by the Center in a 2014 petition under the Endangered Species Act.
Endangered Southern Residents live along the Pacific Coast and are starving for lack of their preferred prey, spring chinook salmon. Other threats to these orcas’ survival include oil spills, water pollution and vessel noise.
“These iconic orcas are going extinct, but the Trump administration has proposed oil leases rather than protections for their habitat,” said Catherine Kilduff, an attorney and marine scientist at the Center. “The Southern Residents desperately need protected foraging areas full of salmon to feed them through the winter. Without swift federal action, these whales will continue their steep slide to extinction.”
Courtesy of the Center for Whale Conservation

The threat of legal action comes just a week after the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission met in Seattle. Experts there warned of the crisis facing Southern Residents with a steep population decline to only 76 whales and few calves born. There were calls for urgent action, including habitat protections, to prevent their extinction.
Responding to the Center’s petition in 2015, the National Marine Fisheries Service said it would expand habitat protections in 2017 to safeguard key foraging and migration areas off the West Coast. Yet the Trump administration has failed to act, despite broad public support.
“These incredible orcas should not become victims of the Trump administration’s policy of blocking science-based protections for the environment,” said Kilduff. “With extinction right around the corner, Southern Residents can’t afford to wait for help.”
Photo credit: Center for Whale Research

Photo credit: Center for Whale Research
While spending their summers in Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, areas protected as critical habitat in 2006, these killer whales travel extensively along the West Coast during the winter and early spring, congregating near coastal rivers to feed on migrating salmon. The Center petitioned in 2014 to protect areas off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California as critical habitat (see map).
The death of the two-year-old male orca known as “J52” in 2017 came as the population dipped from 83 in 2016 to only 76 individuals today, the biggest year-to-year decline ever recorded. The death was confirmed by the Center for Whale Research, which reported malnutrition was likely the cause.
Today’s notice, which typically precedes the filing of a lawsuit, outlines how the Fisheries Service’s failure to act on the Center’s 2014 petition violates federal law. The letter asks the agency to propose habitat protections by August 6.”  Media Release.

Breach the dams or we’ll lose these whales, say the experts

The critically endangered population of Southern Resident orcas lost eight members this year.

“The Columbia River Basin once produced more salmon than any other river system in the world. It remains the gateway to millions of acres of pristine, high-elevation spawning habitat. But today, wild Columbia Basin spring chinook are returning to their natal streams at roughly 1 percent of their historic numbers.
There are those who say it’s too late to turn this march toward extinction around. If you know these fish and these whales, like we do, then you understand that they are two of nature’s savviest and most resourceful species. We must not give up on them now.”  

The Center for Whale Research and DamSense have created an advertising campaign to urge action before it is too late to save both the salmon and the whales that depend upon them. The ads are scheduled to begin on Sunday, January 7th, and they want you to spread the word:

Port Angeles, Wa. —
We, the undersigned, have prepared an ad campaign due to begin running in the
Jan. 7, 2018 Seattle Times Sunday edition. We are informing our elected officials of the crisis situation surrounding the critically endangered Southern Resident orcas. More than 50% of this species’ diet comes from salmon produced in the Columbia Basin, half of which are produced in the Snake River system. These beloved orcas are starving and malnourished because their primary prey, Chinook, areendangered. The solution is in plain sight. The facts are not being discussed.
For more than forty years, the dams in the Snake River have been destroying salmon runs that are a critical food source for the Southern Resident orcas. We are concerned that said elected officials do not possess the vital information they need in order to take immediate action to recover endangered species in our home State of Washington.
More than 50% of this whale species’ diet comes from salmon produced in the Columbia Basin, half of which are produced in the Snake River system. These beloved orcas are starving and malnourished because their primary prey, Chinook, are endangered.
Breaching the four lower Snake River dams can move forward immediately utilizing the 2002 Lower Snake River EIS [Environmental Impact Statement]. This can be accomplished without the need for Congressional authority or new appropriations.
We, the 23,000+ signees of the petition found here hope that our advertising campaign will generate more urgency and honesty among our elected officials.
We hope that more of the public will join in with tens of thousands of others whom have contacted offices of Washington State’s Governor Jay Inslee and Senator Patty Murray.
The character of the Pacific Northwest is at stake in this issue.
http://blog.seattlepi.com/candacewhiting