Evaluating Salmon Harvest Effects on Southern Resident Killer Whales in Washington State

Category: Wildlife Research

Published: January 28, 2019

Pages: 6

Executive Summary

There is significant concern regarding the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) population. While there are several threats affecting their recovery, the decline of Chinook is a major contributing factor. This paper summarizes how Chinook fishery seasons are set, describes how fishery reductions are evaluated relative to SRKW recovery, and describes changes in how fishery managers will evaluate impacts on the SRKW population in 2019 and beyond.

In recent evaluations of proposed fisheries in Puget Sound, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) noted that there are significantly more Chinook available in Puget Sound than what is needed to sustain the SRKW population now. NMFS also indicated that eliminating Puget Sound fisheries would likely result in a less than one percent increase in Chinook abundance that would benefit SRKWs. Other analyses have shown that ocean salmon and Columbia River fisheries have similar non-significant impacts on SRKW prey abundance.

In 2019, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and NMFS will identify conditions when increased prey is essential for SRKWs, and will help guide fishery actions that will increase available Chinook in critical times and areas to contribute to orca recovery.