Summary

The Southern Resident killer whales need to find 900 Pacific Chinook salmon a day to feed their community. However, salmon fisheries are managed for human consumption, with zero allocated for endangered whales, who are almost completely dependent on Chinook for survival.

Why it Matters

When the Southern Resident killer whales were listed as Endangered in 2005, there were 88 members of the community – today there are only 74 (including 3 young calves). Without a reliable source of wild Pacific Chinook salmon, this community with their unique culture and language will be lost forever.

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Ask NOAA Fisheries to allocate a share of the Chinook salmon fishery catch to endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

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Dr. Scott RumseyActing Regional Administrator

West Coast Region - NOAA Fisheries

The Southern Resident killer whales are struggling for survival due to low abundance of 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.

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Hello, I’m calling today with a message for Action Administrator Rumsey.

My name is _______ and I am a resident of ______ state.

I’m alarmed that the endangered Southern Resident killer whales are unable to find sufficient Chinook salmon throughout their range.

As a matter of urgency, I’m asking that you allocate them a share of the annual West Coast Chinook fishery,

They need wild Chinook salmon to survive and to raise their calves to grow this fragile population. Without a fair share of the catch, their community simply cannot survive.

Please prevent the extinction of this unique culture by taking action now.

Thank you.

Mailing Address

Acting Regional Administrator Rumsey
NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region
1201 NE Lloyd Boulevard, Ste. 1100
Portland, OR 97232

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Dear Acting Administrator Rumsey,

I am alarmed that the Southern Resident killer whales are struggling for survival due to lack of wild Chinook salmon throughout their range. As the Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, West Coast Region, I respectfully request that you allocate them a portion of the annual Chinook salmon fishery, until spawning grounds and other key salmon habitats are restored for the benefit of all that rely on them – from tribes and coastal communities, to endangered marine mammals.

In 2005, Southern Resident killer whales were listed under the Endangered Species Act when the population stood at 88. Over the last 15 years – on your watch – this population has further declined to 74 today. In fact, due to insufficient Chinook, 69% of detected pregnancies have failed at, or before birth. This malnutrition is making them more susceptible to infectious disease, and to the negative effects of pollution, and vessels.

Commercial and recreational fisheries continue to fish for wild Chinook, with a catch limit set each year, as well as an allocation to tribes. However, these whales – the original fishers of Chinook – are not allocated their fair share.

At NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region, you are “committed to conserving and protecting, using science-based conservation and management.” I ask that you now use the best available science that shows the Southern Residents are failing to find sufficient Chinook salmon to support their community, and remedy this immediately by allocating them a share of the West Coast Chinook salmon catch. The extinction of this unique culture is preventable if we take action now.

Sincerely,

 

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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.

Key Talking Points

Customize your letter with these additional options.


  • Time is running out for the Southern Resident killer whales.
  • Immediate action is needed if we are to save these whales from extinction.
  • Insufficient food is preventing these whales from raising healthy calves to grow the population.
  • The best available science shows that lack of salmon is the number one threat to these endangered whales.
  • Fisheries from Washington to California are removing Chinook salmon vital to the survival of this endangered population.
  • Few fishing seasons remain to give these starving families their fair share of the catch.

Background

Killer Whales & Salmon

Chinook (aka King) is the largest of the Pacific salmon. They co-evolved with the unique and diverse wildlife of the Pacific Northwest, including fish-eating orcas like the Southern Residents. But today, wild Pacific salmon populations are in trouble from British Columbia to California.

Overfishing over the last 100 years – together with other human impacts – has decimated this once abundant species, also dramatically reducing their size and weight. Today the total number of wild Chinook in the Pacific Northwest is a fraction of historic levels. Evidence shows that in years when wild Chinook populations decline, so do the Southern Residents.

The Greatest Threat

Lack of Chinook salmon is responsible for a pregnancy failure rate of 69%, with calves dying before, at, or shortly after birth. Mothers struggle to raise their surviving calves, with insufficient food for the two of them. This malnutrition causes the whole community to be more susceptible to infectious disease, and to the negative effects of pollution and vessels.

Commercial and recreational fisheries continue to catch Chinook salmon, as do tribes – with their own allocation. However, these killer whales – the original fishers of Chinook – are not allocated a share of the annual catch. If we’re to save them from extinction, we must give them a fair share.