NOAA Fisheries –
Southern Resident killer whales have long pursued the biggest and most nourishing Chinook salmon from coastal Pacific waters. Chinook salmon fishing is also a mainstay of the West Coast economy, generating nearly $72 million in income last year.
Is there room for both?
The answer is yes, with safeguards. NOAA Fisheries prioritizes the needs of Southern Residents in setting salmon fishing seasons, as the Endangered Species Act requires. We also recognize the importance of salmon fisheries to port communities up and down the West Coast, as outlined by laws including the Magnuson Stevens Act.
We are working with states, tribes, and the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council). We are examining in detail how West Coast fisheries affect prey for the Southern Residents. So far, the analysis has indicated that Council fisheries have been taking a small proportion of the available Chinook salmon each year.
The analysis comes in the form of a risk assessment evaluating the impacts of fishing on Southern Resident killer whales. It found that Southern Resident numbers have declined over the last two decades. This has occurred even as Chinook salmon abundance has varied and fishing harvest has decreased coastwide.