Pacific Northwest
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Feds could restrict Pacific Ocean fishing over endangered orcas, NOAA letter says

SEATTLE—The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is taking a fresh look at whether new fishing restrictions are needed to help prevent the extinction of endangered southern resident killer whales that frequent Puget Sound.

New evidence of the fish the whales depend on and the risk posed to orcas by depleted prey has caused the agency to write a letter of guidance to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, indicating the agency is examining whether new restrictions are needed—particularly on fisheries in the lower Columbia and Sacramento rivers and on fall-run chinook salmon in the Klamath River.

The council is one of eight regional entities across the nation that sets fishing seasons off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California on a wide variety of species, including salmon.

The agency in 2009 concluded fisheries did not jeopardize the survival and recovery of killer whales.

But since 2009, "a substantial amount of new information is available on SRKW and their prey," NOAA Regional Administrator Barry Thom wrote to Phil Anderson, chairman of the council, on Wednesday.

Therefore, the agency is going to initiate a new look at fisheries regulated by the council this year.

That process is intended to result in fishing that lessens the impact on prey targeted by the whales. Possibilities include restrictions in time and places when fishermen and whales most intersect, or season closures.


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