Stopping chinook fishing might not be enough to help hungry killer whales: salmon official

Stopping all fishing of chinook, including harvesting by First Nations, likely won’t provide an instant food solution for endangered Southern Resident killer whales, the president of the Pacific Salmon Foundation said Tuesday.

Brian Riddell, a former senior official with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said in an interview there are limited options to help the whales other than to stop fishing. “Can you do it? Certainly. That’s something that could be done right now, if that was the priority. You could stop all fishing and put all the fish on the spawning grounds.

“It depends how far you want to take it. These things have repercussions — First Nations’ use, for example. I think everything’s on the table.”

The Pacific Salmon Commission reports a total catch of 1.69 million chinook in 2016, including 1.15 million by Americans and the rest by Canadian fisheries.

Riddell said he is not convinced that taking “large-scale immediate actions are going to make an immediate difference” for the whales. He also believes it is possible to provide limited in-river First Nations chinook catches without having a major impact on productivity. In Canada, only conservation takes priority over First Nations’ food, social, and ceremonial fishing.

What is needed over the longer term is to increase the overall abundance of chinook, including protection of their habitat, while acknowledging the impact of other marine predators on those same chinook, he said. “That’s probably the only way we’ll make a significant difference.” One option for increasing productivity is to acclimate chinook smolts through their transition to sea water by feeding them in temporary sea-pens.

Chinook is the largest species of Pacific salmon and the preferred diet of the Southern Resident killer whales, especially in summer. The fish typically has a five-year life cycle.

“There’s no question the whales are struggling in terms of diet,” Riddell said. “We …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun

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