Endangered Southern Resident killer whalesrequire approximately


To survive every year.
NOAA & The Pacific Salmon Commisionhave allocated


Sealing their fate towards extinction.

Southern Resident killer whales are literallystarving to death...

Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs) evolved to eat Chinook salmon—a species once plentiful throughout the Salish Sea. The fact is, each whale needs around 20 full-bodied salmon per day to survive. But they’re not getting nearly enough.

Without the proper amount of food, the remaining Southern Resident Killer Whales will gradually die, the population will go extinct, and the Salish Sea will be forever diminished.

1 Killer Whale1 Day20 Chinook Salmon

Based on the analysis of the daily caloric requirements of Southern Resident killer whales, the current population* requires nearly 900 twenty-pound salmon per day.

From June through August, during the time when killer whales are typically foraging in the Salish Sea, the population will require 90,000 large bodied Chinook salmon.

Under current salmon management methods, they aren’t finding enough fish.

*As of 2018

The vast majority of Chinook salmon are caught by commercial fishermen before the whales even have a shot at sharing in the resource. Fisheries managers establish a “total allowable catch” each year, and currently, the entire catch is designated for human consumption—with nothing allocated for whales.

You read that right.

Nothing is allocated for whales.

More than lost habitat

Despite variations in habitat quality, Pacific Coast salmon struggle to recover.

It’s long been the belief amongst fisheries managers that strong salmon runs thrive in pristine habitats. We have now come to learn that habitat is only part of the picture.

Welcome to Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve. Located on the West side of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, this UNESCO – protected ecosystem know for its pristine intact habitat cloaked in dense old-growth forests and rugged undisturbed salmon streams. Yet in this wild environment, salmon and steelhead runs return at a mere fraction of what they were just 50 years ago.

While we must work to protect and restore habitat for wild salmon, we can’t ignore the other factors affecting recovery.

It’s time to demand changesin how our fisheries are managed.

Southern Resident Killer Whales are a federally protected, endangered species. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a legal obligation to safeguard the whale’s prey. But they’re not adhering to this requirement.
Not even close.

Fisheries managers in charge of determining harvest figures are not accounting for the needs of our whales. So now the public must demand change. We must insist that NOAA and the Pacific Salmon Commission acknowledge the needs of the SRKWs and allocate salmon for them, while honoring tribal treaty rights.

Take Action.

Regional Administrator Barry Thom

West Coast Region - NOAA Fisheries

The Southern Resident killer whales are struggling for survival due to insufficient wild Chinook salmon throughout their range from Washington to California. NOAA Fisheries has the authority to manage salmon fisheries to help recover this endangered population, and so I respectfully request that you urgently allocate them a share of the West Coast Chinook salmon fishery to prevent their extinction. Thank you.

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Questions & Answers

Southern Resident Killer Whales fish for salmon from British Columbia to California. Over the last century, the number of salmon produced in the rivers that feed these Pacific waters, including the Salish Sea, has fallen dramatically. Dams are one of the big contributors as they’ve prevented salmon from accessing historic breeding habitat. Where dams have been removed, salmon have successfully re-colonized stretches of river that were unused for decades.

Historically, the Snake River was one of the most important salmon-producing rivers in the residents’ range. The Snake travels through Idaho, Oregon, and into Washington State, where it meets four dams on the lower Snake River. Removal of these dams would allow salmon to once again access hundreds of miles of rivers, rewilding our seas with wild salmon. It’s only through improving the fortunes of these fish, particularly wild Chinook, that we can hope to secure a future for these Wild Orca.

Based on current fisheries management, dam removal alone won’t guarantee killer whales the salmon they need, it will take other habitat restoration, and in the short term, for the whales to be allocated a portion of the annual fishery.

Chinook salmon is one of several species of Pacific salmon that co-mingle in the Pacific. They travel many thousands of lives as adults, such as migrating from rivers where they spawn in Washington State, to feed in Alaskan waters. This means that it’s feasible to catch a number of different species in one haul and in fact the same species but from different rivers of origin, where their conservation status could be endangered. These so-called mixed fisheries are a concern to killer whale scientists, as they further endanger the future of wild Chinook salmon and the whales.

Following a lawsuit by the Centre for Biological Diversity and the Wild Fish Conservancy, the federal agency responsible for fisheries –  NOAA Fisheries – agreed to re-examine the impacts of mixed fisheries on these whales. However, without public input and pressure from concerned citizens and scientists, we believe the needs of the whales will be considered last when any decisions are made regarding commercial fisheries.

Pacific salmon are highly complex species that rely on fresh and saltwater habitats in their lifetime, and the health and availability of these habitats are crucial to their breeding success.

When this system is unable to support healthy populations of salmon, we depend upon fisheries managers to reduce the “allowable” catch. This ensures that a percentage of salmon can return to the stream where they were born to reproduce the next generation (this is known as escapement). In some fisheries—not just salmon—catch limits have sometimes been set too high, and have impacted the success of future generations, something scientists refer to as recruitment.

It is important that everyone works together to solve the salmon crisis: fisheries managers, scientists, ecologists, land management agencies, forestry managers, watershed, river and stream managers, power company administrators and government agencies mandated by law to recover endangered species.

It is only through a collaborative effort that we can recover Pacific salmon to historic levels, which would provide enough to support the ecosystem and the needs of humans and whales alike.

Until such time, it is important that fisheries managers recognize that the whales need an allocation of the annual catch. And we are calling on the West Coast fisheries managers to ensure that a percentage of each harvest is allocated for the needs of the whales – i.e. left in the sea.

The Southern Resident killer whales are fish specialists, and while they can eat a variety of fish, the majority of their diet is salmon, primarily Chinook as it is the fattiest and largest, and so provides the best bang for the buck.

This unique community of whales has evolved side-by-side with wild Pacific Chinook in the Pacific Northwest, and is completely distinct from the Bigg’s killer whales that travel through the same waters, but feed on marine mammals. As such, the culture of the Southern Resident killer whales, an indigenous population, is completely built around salmon. They are not going to suddenly switch to eating marine mammals, no matter how convenient that might be for some who wish they would! In geological time, the changes humans have inflicted on our wildlife and ecosystems in the last century have occurred in the blink of an eye, and long-lived mammals like killer whales cannot evolve at this pace. This extended family of whales is quite simply destined for extinction without an adequate supply of wild Chinook salmon.

Government-funded hatcheries have attempted to produce more salmon for everyone; as wild stocks declined, hatchery fish were intended to bridge the gap. Billions of hatchery-raised salmon have been released into the rivers of Washington State, California, and Oregon.

Despite this, the catch of Pacific salmon has not increased in these waters. In fact, the introduction of hatchery-raised fish has also had a detrimental effect on wild salmon. In addition, the fish released from hatcheries are smaller and less fatty, making them less nutritious for the whales, but they’re an ideal size for seals and sea lions, which is now even leading to calls for a cull to control population sizes of these predators.

To learn more, read our review of why hatcheries are not the solution for recovering either salmon or endangered wild orcas.

It’s true that seals and sea lions do eat salmon, but it’s a very small portion of their diet, as they eat many other species. Marine mammals like these are important predators in the marine ecosystem, as they help to control disease in populations of their prey, and ensure that the healthiest survive to reproduce. These predators, in turn, are controlled by the Bigg’s killer whale—also known as transients—that have seals and sea lions on their menu.

Decades of removing top predators from the oceans through hunting and overfishing have shown us that the rest of the ecosystem is at risk when we do so. Removing these predators now will not improve the salmon catch for human fishers, or killer whales. In fact, it may even decrease the catch.

It’s important to recognize that fishing alone is not the problem. Pacific salmon are struggling for many reasons, including historical overfishing, but their challenge to thrive is impacted by the loss of habitat in streams, rivers, and seas, impacts of industry and commerce – pollution, dams, logging. Contrary to expectation, releasing hatchery fish has not improved the prospects for wild salmon stocks.

Restoring wild salmon to the Pacific Northwest will require a collective effort. We recognize that fishermen have spearheaded and funded some of the most effective habitat restoration efforts, especially in salmon spawning rivers.

We don’t want to erode anyone’s cultural, historical, or economic connection to wild salmon, rather we want to ensure the long-term sustainability of this important species, so that there is an abundance for all that depend upon them – humans and marine mammals alike.

Indigenous communities have a deep connection to nature, honoring and respecting salmon and killer whales, with cultural and spiritual traditions that trace back to the origins of the first peoples of North America.

We have a deep respect for tribal fishing treaty rights and our goal to recover wild salmon is also the tribes’ goal, as salmon that replenish the orca, also sustain their cultural traditions, in addition to the important economic value they bring to the tribes.

We seek only to ensure that the Southern Resident Killer Whales are considered as the first fishers of wild Chinook salmon and that they deserve a place at the table with the tribes, and with those seeking commercial or recreational benefit.

Southern Resident killer whales primarily eat Chinook salmon. Chinook, also known as King Salmon, is the largest of the Pacific salmon, with the highest fat content and therefore has the highest calorie count essential for supporting the health of these large mammals, that need to consume 20 full-bodied salmon per day to survive.

These whales fish for Chinook salmon up and down the Pacific Coast from Monterey, California into British Columbia, Canada. Unfortunately, wild Chinook salmon has been overfished for decades in Washington, Oregon, and California, and its habitat has been severely altered by dams, logging, and pollution. And so like the whales, some wild Chinook salmon populations are also threatened with extinction.

There are many consumer guides to choosing ocean-friendly seafood. Some give a green light to eating Chinook salmon, especially from Alaska. However, we know that Chinook salmon is a wide-ranging species, and will travel thousands of miles in the Pacific Ocean. Studies by the Pacific Salmon Commission show that Chinook salmon originating in streams and rivers in the lower 48, may be caught in the Southeast Alaska Chinook fishery. This, of course, prevents these individuals from returning to their river of origin and replenishing salmon from these rivers. And also reduces the salmon populations traveling through the Salish Sea, vital spring and summer fishing grounds of the Southern Resident killer whales.

For these reasons, we suggest you find an alternative to Chinook salmon until such times as wild populations are restored and sustainable. For now, let’s Leave Wild Chinook For Wild Orcas.

Many consumer guides to ocean-friendly seafood list wild-caught Alaska salmon as sustainable, and the entire fishery is certified sustainable to the standards of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

However, it is widely accepted that many of the Chinook salmon caught in the Southeast Alaska Chinook fishery did not originate in Alaskan rivers, but instead have traveled from rivers in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Not only is this source of food vital for the health and survival of the Southern Resident killer whales, but many of these Chinook may also come from stocks listed under the Endangered Species Act as endangered, threatened, or of concern.

As it is therefore extremely challenging to ascertain if the wild-caught Alaska Chinook salmon in your restaurant or market is from a healthy Alaskan river, we suggest for now you choose an alternative and Leave Wild Chinook For Wild Orcas.

More Questions & Answers