Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Recovery of West Coast marine mammals boosts consumption of chinook salmon


November 20, 2017

Recovering populations of killer whales, sea lions and harbor seals on the West Coast have dramatically increased their consumption of chinook salmon in the last 40 years, which may now exceed the combined harvest by commercial and recreational fisheries, a new study finds.
While the recovery of marine mammals represents a conservation success, it creates complex tradeoffs for managers also charged with protecting the salmon they prey on, the study concludes. The U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 protects all marine mammals, including whales and pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) within the waters of the United States. and the Endangered Species Act protects nine West Coast populations of chinook salmon.

The study was published today in the journal Scientific Reports. The findings resulted from a collaboration of federal, state and tribal scientists in the Pacific Northwest, including Oregon State University and NOAA Fisheries. The research was designed in part to understand the pressures on chinook salmon consumed by southern resident killer whales, which in contrast to other killer whale populations are endangered and show few signs of recovery.

Southern residents spend much of the year in the inland waters of Washington and consume about the same volume of salmon today as they did 40 years ago, the study found. The study suggests that, at least in recent years, competition with other marine mammals may be more of a problem for southern residents than competition with human fisheries.

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