In a bit of press coverage related to a new publication by John Ford et al. we orca advocates are again getting the confusing message: southern residents need a place at the table where Chinook salmon management is derived, but it’s sure to be nearly impossible to represent them. I say it’s time to stop nay-saying and start representing!
In yesterday’s Oregonian, Ford is quoted as saying: “It’s going to be important to work with the salmon managers to make sure there are enough chinook for the whales.”
But then a representative of WDFW (the government agency that sets sports fishing regulations for Washington State) sets up the conundrum:
Gary Wiles, a wildlife biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, says Ford’s study provides strong evidence that the survival of the killer whales depends largely on restoring chinook salmon runs.
“The case they make here is quite compelling,” says Wiles, co-author of the federal recovery plan for the endangered southern resident whales. But he says figuring out a way to divide up the fish among so many interests won’t be easy.
“With the overall decline of chinook stocks,” he says. “it really becomes a problematic thing to throw into the mix.”
The prudent thing seems to be to find ways to alter commercial and recreational fishing by humans to optimize the southern residents ability to feed themselves during the winter months. This might be as simplistic as fishing bans (they should at least be on the table if we’re discussing the extinction of regional icons), but could probably be much more innovative and acceptable to human fishers. And as an Oregon fisherman points out, there’s still room for orca and salmon advocates to collaborate to recovery Chinook by problem-solving around the other H’s: hatcheries, hydropower, habitat, heat, and history.
Darus Peake, a fisherman in Garibaldi and chairman of the Oregon Salmon Commission, says bans on fishing are politically easy, but less effective than removing dams, cleaning up decades of pollution and stopping logging and development along rivers.
“While I feel for the plight of the orcas, we’re both in this together,” Peake says. “Until we as a society go back and fix these rivers where the problem starts, we’re all in trouble.”
Fishery managers say figuring out how to allocate salmon to the killer whales would be enormously complicated. Because the whales prey on chinook that spawn in rivers from California to British Columbia, decisions would have to include two countries, numerous tribes with treaty rights to the salmon, as well as commercial and sport fishermen.
Obvious calls to action I’ve seen recently:
- Attend the Wild Salmon Rally in Seattle on Wed 9/30
- Comment on recreational fishing regs proposed for 2010-2012 In person mtgs around the State Sep 28 – Oct 13; Written comments by Dec 1.
(This is conveniently right before the 7-9pm public comment mtg re the proposed rules for orca-boat interactions at the Seattle Aquarium.)