Summary

The Southern Resident killer whales are at risk of extinction, and yet must compete with fisheries for Chinook (King) salmon. Government scientists acknowledge the whales’ year-round reliance on Chinook, yet since listing this population as endangered 15 years ago, they’ve failed to consider their needs when setting annual fishing limits: Until now.

Why it Matters

Lack of Chinook drives a 69% pregnancy failure rate, as well as numerous other health issues. Last year, fishery managers voted to reduce fishing in years when Chinook is scarce, to leave more for starving whales. This change, known as  “Amendment 21” is a small, but important step towards balancing the needs of humans and endangered whales.

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Take Action

Tell the government you support Amendment 21, as a first step to increasing Chinook salmon for endangered killer whales.
Comment NowWhat to SayStep-by-Step Instructions

1 Killer Whale1 Day20 Chinook Salmon

1 Killer Whale1 Day20 Chinook Salmon

Background

How we got here

In 2018, two wildlife organizations threatened to sue the government for violations under the Endangered Species Act. They claimed West Coast salmon fisheries management is harming endangered killer whales.

So, NOAA Fisheries—responsible for both fisheries and endangered species protection reviewed Chinook fisheries, and proposed changes to the Pacific Salmon Management Plan, to limit their impacts on the orcas. These changes—Amendment 21—need Secretary of Commerce approval.

What is Amendment 21?

Amendment 21 will trigger when fishery managers predict returns of less than 966,000 Chinook. Regulations will then limit Chinook fishing to increase opportunities for endangered killer whales. Changes include:

  • Reduced catch quotas for (non-tribal) fisheries off Oregon & Washington;
  • Delayed start to some commercial West Coast fisheries; &
  • Extended winter closures for certain West Coast fisheries.

What to Say

You can use one or more of our suggested comments.
To increase its impact, make it unique and personal to you.

Amendment 21 is a good first step in acknowledging the needs of the Southern Resident killer whales when setting catch limits. However, urgent action is needed now to ensure these whales have access to sufficient Chinook salmon to raise healthy calves, and to support prime breeding-age adults. This population is smaller now than when listed as endangered.


NOAA Fisheries new diet study when coupled with previous studies shows Chinook are essential to the Southern Resident killer whales year-round. Amendment 21 is a first step towards ensuring the needs of these whales are taken into account in low abundance years. However, NOAA must take additional steps now to reduce fishing to ensure more Chinook are available to endangered killer whales, and not wait for a crisis.

I support the intent of Amendment 21, that is to leave more salmon for the Southern Resident killer whales in years of low Chinook abundance. But it’s only a first step towards meeting their needs. It’s imperative to recover this endangered species, and save wild Chinook which, as your own recently-published diet study shows, is essential to these orcas year-round.


The needs of the Southern Resident killer whales must be considered when setting annual catch limits. Amendment 21 is the first step towards giving the whales a seat at the table, especially in years of low abundance. I urge you to accept this change, and use all means necessary to safeguard the future of this endangered population—to ensure sufficient Chinook year-round now, as proven essential in your recently published study.

Comment Now

Step-by-Step Instructions

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