With a current population of only 74 whales—a 30-year population low—southern resident orcas (a.k.a. killer whales) are in crisis. Their primary prey, Chinook salmon, are endangered, and the whales are starving. In March, Washington Governor Jay Inslee ordered formation of the Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery and Task Force and charged it with recommending “swift near-term actions and effective long-term actions necessary to recover these iconic and endangered animals.”
AWI believes strategic dam removals along the Lower Snake River would yield the greatest benefit to orcas and salmon. There is more public support for this idea than for any other proposed action that was considered. Yet, in its final report to Governor Inslee in November, the task force did not include this action.
In fact, the task force recommended the lethal removal of pinnipeds—who, they claim, eat too many salmon—within the Columbia River Basin. This option is not supported by the public, and this type of predator control rarely works wherever it is attempted.
Bold actions are needed to save the southern residents. However, the task force largely ignored science and the public will, a stance that benefits no one, least of all the whales and salmon.