Over the past three years, the US government has awarded money to hatchery operators in the Pacific Northwest to increase production of Chinook salmon for the purpose of increasing prey for killer whales in the region, which are listed as endangered.
The National Marine Fisheries Service “is proposing to continue implementation of the funding program to increase prey for the benefit of” Southern Resident Killer Whales, according to a notice published this week. “Beginning in 2020, NMFS funded the production of additional hatchery Chinook salmon in existing hatchery programs in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Specific criteria were developed to guide these funding decisions to maximize the benefits to SRKWs, while mitigating potential adverse effects to salmon and steelhead listed under the [Endangered Species Act].”
Consequently, NMFS will be conducting a court-mandated environmental impact assessment of the prey increase program.
“We will also be evaluating the effects of a No Action alternative, in which no Federal funding would be used to increase available Chinook prey for the benefit of SRKWs. NMFS is also planning to evaluate other possibilities. For example, instead of funding additional prey for SRKWs in the form of hatchery fish, funding could instead be used to improve the productivity of natural-origin salmon through habitat restoration/enhancement. Another alternative could reduce fishing impacts on select salmon stocks instead of producing additional hatchery fish. Through this notice, we are seeking input on these potential alternatives to help shape the development of our [environmental impact statement] consistent with our purpose and need for the proposed action.”
Read the full notice here.