There has been discussion about the health of Southern Resident Killer Whales over many years, a symposium in the fall of 2017 and associated comments by the Fisheries Minister, the Honourable Dominic Leblanc, signaled an interest and a call to action by government to make changes to the circumstances and environment that SRKW currently find themselves.
While the approach to Southern Resident Killer Whale recovery efforts will likely be multi-faceted there would seem little doubt that the recreational sector needs to be aware of the issue and prepared to modify activities so that we can be a part of the recovery of these magnificent animals. While scientific studies agree that ceasing harvest will not provide the desired increase in abundance of Chinook salmon for SRKW, there is evidence that increasing production of chinook salmon and addressing marine noise and disturbances should help. Reduction of marine noise can be affected immediately by reducing speeds and agreeing to leave a wide corridor around moving Killer Whales. Increasing numbers of Chinook salmon, Killer Whales preferred food, can take place relatively quickly and can be augmented and enhanced through use of ocean pens to temporarily hold and feed juvenile Chinook. The survival rates of juvenile salmon held even for a month in an ocean pen is as much as 10 times higher, from 3% to as high as 30%, than that of fry or smolt entering the ocean directly from estuarine or river environments. A combination of reduced interaction or interference with the whales as they try to feed and forage and a concerted effort to increase production of Chinook salmon generally and particularly using ocean net pens to briefly hold and feed juveniles would by, many accounts, go a long way to aiding in the recovery of these fantastic animals.
We will dedicate this space to provide updates and links to important and relevant information on the subject.
The Effects of Salmon Fisheries on SRKW – Final Report of the Independent Science Panel prepared for NOAA and DFO
Competing Tradeoffs – Marine Mammal Predation and Fisheries Harvest of Chinook Salmon – Nature.com Scientific Reports
Seals and Sea Lions may be slowing salmon recovery, hurting Orcas – Christopher Dunagan, Puget Sound Institute
Be Whale Wise – a promotional effort and website aimed at spreading the word to Pacific Northwest residents about the regulations that govern human-whale interaction.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada – Ecosystems and Ocean Science Documents:
Link to the Species at Risk Public Registry documents: Action Plan for the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) in Canada
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