In this 2014 photo, endangered orcas from the J pod swim in Puget Sound west of Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

In this 2014 photo, endangered orcas from the J pod swim in Puget Sound west of Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Feds could restrict West Coast salmon fishing to help orcas

NOAA Fisheries is taking public comment on the plan, which wouldn’t affect tribes.

Associated Press

SEATTLE — Federal officials are proposing to curtail nontribal salmon fishing along the West Coast in especially bad years to help the Northwest’s endangered killer whales.

NOAA Fisheries is taking public comment on the plan, which calls for restricting commercial and recreational salmon fishing when Chinook salmon forecasts are especially low.

The southern resident killer whales — the endangered orcas that spend much of their time in the waters between Washington state and British Columbia — depend heavily on depleted runs of fatty Chinook. Recent research has affirmed how important Chinook are to the whales year round, as they cruise the outer coast, and not just when they forage in Washington’s inland waters in the summertime.

The fishing restrictions would extend from Puget Sound in Washington to Monterey Bay in central California, and they would be triggered when fewer than 966,000 Chinook are forecast to return to Northwest rivers. The last time forecast Chinook returns were that low was in 2007.

The restrictions would include reducing fishing quotas north of Cape Falcon in Oregon; delaying the start of the ocean commercial troll fishery between Cape Falcon and Monterey Bay; and closing parts of the Columbia River and Grays Harbor in Washington and the Klamath River and Monterey Bay to fishing much of the year.

If NOAA Fisheries adopts the plan as recommended by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, it would be one of the first times a federal agency has restricted hunting or fishing one species to benefit a predator that relies on it.

There are 75 orcas in the three pods that make up the southern resident orca population. The whales have in recent years been at their lowest numbers since the 1970s, when hundreds were captured — and more than 50 were kept — for aquarium display. Scientists warn the population is on the brink of extinction.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a news conference, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Inslee announced that Washington state is expanding its vaccine mandate to include all public, charter and private school teachers and staff, as well as those working at the state's colleges and universities. Inslee also expanded the statewide indoor mask mandate in place for non-vaccinated individuals to include those who are vaccinated. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Gov. Inslee asks feds for medical staffing help with COVID-19

The state also requested Department of Defense personnel “to assist with the current hospital crisis.”

Two combines harvest wheat, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, near Pullman, Wash. Across eastern Washington, a drought the National Weather Service classified as "exceptional" has devastated what is normally the fourth largest wheat crop in the nation. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
2021 a record-breaking drought year in parts of Washington

Wheat, lentils, chickpeas, and potatoes in the east side of the state have all suffered.

A sign directs motorists to a COVID-19 testing site, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, in Tukwila, Wash., south of Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Eviction protections in Washington extended to Oct. 31

Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday the state’s eviction protections will be extended beyond Sept. 30.

In photo provided by the Washington State Dept. of Agriculture, an Asian Giant Hornet wearing a tracking device is shown Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020 near Blaine, Wash. Scientists have discovered the first nest of so-called murder hornets in the United States and plan to wipe it out Saturday to protect native honeybees, officials in Washington state said Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (Karla Salp/Washington Dept. of Agriculture via AP)
4th murder hornet nest destroyed in northwestern Washington

Another nest of Asian giant hornets found close to the Canada border has been destroyed.

King County workers get more time for COVID-19 vaccine

The agreement, which covers about 10,000 workers, gives some slack for those who have been hesitant.

North Cascades National Park is coming under new leadership

Don Striker will draw from and recognize the traditional knowledge and sovereignty of tribes.

Seattle, state to buy 3 new buildings for homeless people

A 165 studio apartments supposed to be rented at market rates will instead house homeless people.

The Voting Commissioners of the Washington State Redistricting Commission released draft Legislative District maps Tuesday. (Washington State Redistricting Commission)
Early maps of legislative districts endanger some incumbents

Under one redistricting proposal, Mill Creek joins Everett. Under another, Monroe joins Wenatchee.

Seattle mayor extends COVID eviction moratoriums

The moratoriums will remain in place through Jan. 15, rather than expiring at the end of September.

Most Read