Seattle Times Op Ed: To save our Puget Sound orcas, we must save salmon

The Seattle Times published an oped pointing out the connections between saving salmon and saving orca whales. David Troutt, natural resources director for the Nisqually Tribe, co-authored the piece.

Like the resident whales that depend on them, Puget Sound chinook salmon are also listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The spring chinook run from the mighty Fraser River in southern British Columbia is a fraction of what it once was. We’ve invested thousands of hours of volunteer labor and considerable resources in freshwater and estuary habitat recovery in the region. Harvest rates have been significantly reduced, and hatchery management has undergone major changes. Despite efforts, the abundance of our Salish Sea chinook salmon populations, both wild and hatchery, remains well below what it was 30 years ago.

Why? The survival of both wild and hatchery chinook salmon after they enter the saltwater environment was up to 10 times higher in the early 1980s compared with now. Observed changes in the Salish Sea marine ecosystem are thought to be the cause as no such trend has been observed for salmon leaving and returning to our coastal rivers that empty directly to the Pacific Ocean.

A new international effort, the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, led by the groups Long Live the Kings and the Pacific Salmon Foundation, is under way to unravel the mystery of why salmon entering Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia are dying at alarming rates.

This project brings together 150 scientists, 40 organizations including tribal, First Nations and two countries to understand the problems our chinook and other salmon face so that we can take the right actions to protect them.

Read the entire thing here.

More on tribal involvement in the Salish Sea Survival Project:

Tribes partner in marine survival research

Marine survival research focuses on juvenile salmon, preferred prey

Marine Survival Project Looks at Salmon Poisoning Disease

Nisqually Tribe looking for connections between zooplankton and salmon

Video: Squaxin Island Tribe studies algae in deep South Sound