Why Orca Need the Pacific Salmon Treaty

July 12, 2021

Nick Zahniser

Nick Zahniser

The Chinook Observer recently ran an article detailing the concerning state in which the local orca population is currently residing. According to the article, there are currently 75 orcas in three pods that form the southern resident orca population. This is their lowest population number seen since the 1970s, with hundreds being captured or kept on display at aquariums along the western states. Now the orcas are on the brink of extinction, with scientists and oceanographers warning that they could see another species placed on the infamous list. 

Issues for Salmon Anglers 

This could spell issues for salmon anglers on the west coast, with reports out of Seattle, Washington claiming that the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) are ready to restrict and potentially ban, salmon fishing to assist the endangered killer whales. Chinook salmon, which are stated to be incredibly low in supply out west already, are a main food supply to the orcas that spend large amounts of their time between Washington and British Colombia. This area is similarly popular to fishermen looking to catch themselves one of these fatty salmon. 

The restriction that the NOAA would supposedly run from Puget Sound, Washington to Monterey Bay, California. Luckily, restrictions would only be placed when fewer than 966,000 Chinook would be forecasted to return to the Northwest rivers. 

The Plan to Help Orca

The plan, recommended by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) and labeled as the Pacific Salmon Treaty, could see much of western fishing change drastically, with fishing quotas in Oregon being reduced, delaying commercial troll fishery in California, and closing parts of rivers in both Washington and California. 

Federal funding has been granted from the Washington State Legislature estimated at around $21 million for habitat protection and restoration projects for the Chinook. Additional funding has been requested by the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund to continue its work, while the U.S. Army Corps has taken steps to improve fishing passages around the Puget Sound area. 

These changes would not be implemented until after the official hearing and public comments close on August 2, but the NOAA Fisheries would need to decide within 30 days prior to the closing to approve the threshold. Chinook have not seen their population decrease this significantly since 2007, and as Chinook-only fishing begins June 19 for Washington, the projected population will decline further for 2022. The restrictions, while inconvenient, will be important for the future of the orcas and could see them avoid extinction. 

To read the Chinook Observer’s original article, click here. 

Read more conservation stories on iSportsmanUSA.
Image courtesy of Natalia Kollegova.
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