More On Salmon And Southern Residents

“Damn, these things are getting hard to find.”

From Erica Cirino in The Revelator. Again, the focus is on dams:

According to experts, the reason for the starvation in the Southern Residents is most definitely a lack of salmon, which make up the largest and most nutritious part of their diet. Wasser and his fellow researchers found that levels of thyroid hormones were lowest in the Southern Resident whales following known drops in Chinook salmon from the Fraser River, while increases in salmon in the river were associated with increases in thyroid hormone levels.

In the past 10 years, salmon — particularly those spawning in the Columbia River — have decreased. While that’s certain, Wasser said what’s not well understood is why their numbers are dropping. Overfishing and habitat loss due to development could play a role in the fish’s demise. However, it appears more likely that the construction of hydroelectric dams on rivers where salmon spawn and migrate are to blame.

“Some say dams are key, including the Snake River dam, which impacts levels of early spring Chinook, some of the fattiest fish known and essential to replenish whales from the harsh winter and sustain them until the Fraser River Chinook run peaks in the summer,” said Wasser.

Giles takes a stronger personal stance when it comes to discussing the threats to survival the Southern Residents face. She said it’s clear that fishing restrictions and dam removal are necessary in order to replenish salmon and killer whale populations in the Pacific Northwest. But making her voice heard has been something she’s been criticized for doing as a scientist.

“I won’t stop telling the truth about what’s happening just because it’s politically ‘incorrect’ or unpopular,” said Giles. “We need to take action now or we’ll lose these genetically and culturally distinct whales forever.”

Whether we succeed in doing what is necessary to help this population survive, or whether we let them dwindle away, is a true test of whether anyone really cares enough about the rest of the species on this planet. Everyone says they love killer whales. But if they can’t be mobilized to help a species they love, then what hope do all the other species have?

California Farmers vs. Southern Resident Killer Whales (and Salmon)

Just focused on this. So farming interests want to delist Southern Resident killer whales as an endangered species because they want to pump more water out of the salmon rivers (which pressures salmon populations, which in turn puts pressure on the SRKW population).

Their argument, according to this report (and, yes, I am paraphrasing): SRKW are not that genetically distinct from other killer whales and there are lots of killer whales around the world, so who cares if they disappear from Puget Sound.

SEATTLE — The federal government is reviewing whether Puget Sound orcas should keep their endangered status.

NOAA Fisheries said Monday the review was prompted by a petition from the California-based Pacific Legal Foundation(PLF) seeking to delist the killer whales from the Endangered Species Act. The petition asserts that orcas aren’t in danger of becoming extinct because they’re part of a larger population of thriving whales.

NOAA listed southern resident killer whales as endangered in 2005. The orcas frequent Washington’s Puget Sound. They also spend time in the open ocean. There are currently 86 of these whales.

The agency has a year to decide whether it should delist the orcas. It says accepting the petition does not suggest a proposal to delist will follow.

The petition was filed in August on behalf of the Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy, and Reliability, as well as two California Central Valley farmers.

PLF says that the farmers’ water supply is threatened by the orca’s ESA listing.

I’m tempted to point out that the existence of killer whales in Puget Sound is an enormous benefit to coastal communities. So PLF is proposing to enrich one industry at the cost of another. But I don’t want to put this thing on pure economic terms. Instead I want to simply ask: is making money more important than preserving this?