Published: January 1, 2021
In 2018, Governor Inslee established Executive Order (EO) 18-02 directing a state initiative to reverse the decline of Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs). Established by EO 18-02, the Southern Resident Orca Task Force was directed to identify immediate and long-term actions to benefit SRKWs. One of the three key threats advanced by the Orca Task Force to explain the recent decline of the state- and federally endangered SRKWs was a lack of their primary prey, Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). This lack of prey is believed to contribute to poor SRKW health and reproductive failure.
One of the recommendations by the Orca Task Force was to provide funding to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to significantly increase hatchery production by 50 million smolts, from 2018 levels, to benefit SRKWs in a manner consistent with existing state and federal policies. To that end, WDFW has prepared an Infrastructure Master Plan for salmon hatcheries statewide that prioritizes hatchery improvements based on the recommendations of the Orca Task Force, including evaluating the feasibility of a new Cowlitz River Salmon Hatchery and to identify additional actions to increase Chinook Salmon production in Puget Sound, on the Washington Coast, and in the Columbia River basin.