Salmon Plan Threatens Orca Whales in the San Juan Islands

The federal government’s new plan to save salmon in Washington appears to be the typical politically-influenced poppycock that we’ve come to expect from the agencies in charge of saving salmon, orca whales, and our oceans. An intelligent salmon management plan for the Columbia River is critical to saving the threatened killer whales of the San Juan Islands and is mandated by law under the Endangered Species Act.

Salmon and orca whale advocates recently asked a federal judge to reject the plan as it ignores the most important scientific findings regarding orca whales and salmon in Washington:

  • Salmon make up over 90% of the orca whales diet in the San Juan Islands, so a large population is crucial to a healthy resident killer whale community.
  • Salmon in Washington are already reduced to about 10% of their historical population.
  • Killer whales in the San Juan Islands die from starvation in years when salmon are scarcest.
  • Both salmon and orca whales in the San Juan Islands are on the federal threatened list and any further declines could quickly spiral into regional extinction.

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is the agency charged with saving both salmon and orca whales in Washington. Unfortunately, these are the same careless and neglectful bureaucrats who allowed salmon and orcas to become endangered already! Their previously proposed plans have been repeatedly rejected by federal courts for being ineffective, unscientific, and politically motivated. Although the Obama administration promised to put science ahead of politics when it comes to the environmental, they have failed us just as the Bush administration did.

Independent and government scientists are united regarding the critical link between salmon and orca whales in the San Juan Islands. UW’s Center for Conservation Biology did a multi-year orca study that involved collecting orca whale feces for hormonal analysis. They concluded that starvation and stress caused from salmon scarcity were the cause of the orca whales’ threatened status in the San Juan Islands. NMFS’s own scientists concluded that “Chinook salmon, a relatively rare species [today], was by far the most frequent prey item [for orca whales in Washington].”

NMFS also claims to have scientific data that shows sound pollution is harming killer whales in the San Juan Islands. Yet they don’t stop commercial fishing vessels from taking salmon in the favorite orca whale hunting areas when they could easily fish elsewhere. This harms orcas by stealing their scarce food, exposes them to ear-splitting sound pollution, and potential entanglement and drowning in nets. And NMFS just gave permission to the Navy to use bombs and skull-busting sonar in the whales’ home waters. Instead, they are targeting whale watchers and kayakers as the culprits! Can they be more willfully ignorant and hypocritical?!

Just how can the bureaucrats at the top of NMFS ignore the good science that we tax-payers funded? And why are these same bureaucrats considering outlawing kayaking from San Juan Island? There is absolutely no science to indicate that silent kayaks have any adverse effect on whales. Could it be that kayakers are an easy political target when NMFS is desperate to appear like they are doing something? They have received thousands of comments in support of kayaking from San Juan Island but NMFS doesn’t seem to be interested in either science or the opinion of the community as proven by their Navy bombing decision.

Let’s hope that the judge scraps the proposed salmon plan from NMFS soon. And that smarter people prevail when a decision is made regarding kayaking with whales in the San Juan Islands.

For more information, visit: http://www.wildsalmon.org and http://www.orcanetwork.org.

Go Kayak Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands near Seattle, Washington

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Sea Quest