Most Washington state salmon returns predicted to be worse than last year, estimates show – Seattle Times

As if the legislators trying to get the Orca Task force bills passed didn’t have enough impetus to get them done, now this.

A lean year for orcas and fishermen alike is expected, with poor salmon returns forecast for many species all over the state. Fisheries professionals are working to set fishing seasons on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border for the coming year. So far the news is grim, with salmon forecast to return at just fractions of 10-year averages. For the southern residents, it will be another tough year ahead, with even fewer fish forecast this year than last in many of the important rivers the whales rely on in their seasonal migratory rounds. Below-average returns are predicted from the Fraser to the Columbia, as well as smaller body sizes for most species, according to Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Returns of spring chinook to the Columbia are predicted to be down 14 percent from last year, and at just half the 10-year average. These fish return mostly to hatcheries, but also to some spawning areas above Bonneville dam, and are a mainstay for orcas and fishermen alike. Those fish are particularly important to endangered southern-resident killer whales because of their size, fat content and seasonal timing. Upriver bright and fall chinook returns to the Columbia are also at about half the 10-year average return. The news isn’t better in Puget Sound. Only 29,800 wild chinook are predicted to come back. Protecting those fragile runs will necessitate reductions in fishing of hatchery fish to reduce the unintentional killing of wild chinook. Lynda Mapes reports. (Seattle Times)

Most Washington state salmon returns predicted to be worse than last year, estimates show

and this.

Orca groups call for immediate action to save Southern Residents
On Tuesday, the group sent a letter to government officials in Washington and British Columbia identifying their five key actions to help save the Southern Resident orcas. The letter calls for “bigger and bolder” actions to give the whales a “real chance at recovery.”… The actions include funding for international salmon habitat restoration projects, breaching the four Lower Snake River dams, replacing and retrofitting floodgates along the Fraser River in British Columbia, cleaning up known contamination hotspots in Puget Sound and the Fraser River delta, and allocating a fisheries quota for the Southern Residents on the West Coast. While some of the actions have been proposed during orca recovery efforts, others have not been seriously addressed. The organizations say their five actions are “big-ticket, science-based, and are essential for moving forward.” (KING)

and this.

Compromise on orca protection removes whale watching moratorium, garners criticism
A de facto ban on whale watching boats that would have required them to stay 650 yards away from endangered Puget Sound orcas for three to five years has been stripped from revised legislation. The compromise goes against a recommendation from Gov. Jay Inslee’s Orca Recovery Task Force…. The compromise legislation omits the de facto moratorium detailed in prior bills, but increases the distance all boats must keep from the endangered whales from 200 to 300 yards. It also creates a go-slow zone and a new licensing system under which the state Department of Fish and Wildlife can set conditions to limit things such as boat numbers or time spent with the whales. That’s not enough for some advocates, including Janet Thomas, executive director of the Orca Relief Citizens’ Alliance. She told lawmakers the compromise makes a “mockery” of what the task force recommended. Bellamy Pailthorp reports. (KNDX)

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