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Southern resident killer whale breaching. Image courtesy of NOAA

Orca task force releases recommendations

By Jeff Rice The governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force released its final report and recommendations today, focusing on three key threats to Puget Sound’s endangered orcas: Lack of food, disturbance from noise and vessel traffic, and toxic contaminants. In all, the report makes 36 recommendations for recovering the fast-declining orca population, which now stands at …

Killer whale with calf. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Task force narrows list of ideas to save killer whales from extinction

By Christopher Dunagan The term “no silver bullet” has been heard again and again as dozens of experts from throughout the state examine ideas that might help avoid extinction for Puget Sound’s beloved orcas. The Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force, created by the governor, is considering short-term actions — such as increasing hatchery production …

J16 surfacing near Saturna Island, August 2012. Photo: Miles Ritter (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrmritter/7730710932

For declining orcas, food is fate

The story of Puget Sound’s starving resident orcas has come into dramatic focus over the past two weeks. As the world watches an orca grieve for her dead calf, and tribes and federal agencies prepare to try to feed a dangerously emaciated three-year-old orca in Jpod, we look at how the lack of Chinook salmon …

Chinook salmon leaping at the Ballard Locks in Seattle. Photo: Ingrid Taylar (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/taylar/29739921130

New studies on emerging threats to salmon

Chemicals, disease and other stressors can increase a salmon’s chance of being eaten or reduce its ability to catch food. We wrap up our series on the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project with a look at some of the lesser-known, but still significant factors contributing to salmon declines in the Salish Sea. Read the story in …

A harbor seal hunting anchovies. From Howe Sound Ballet video by Bob Turner: https://youtu.be/Ycx1hvrPAqc

Could anchovies and other fish take pressure off salmon and steelhead?

A recent influx of anchovies into Puget Sound may have saved some steelhead from predators, but researchers seek more evidence to prove the connection. Our series on the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project continues with a look at these and other potential impacts from predators on the region’s salmon and steelhead. Read the story in …

Spring Chinook Salmon. Photo: Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service

Opening the black box: What’s killing Puget Sound’s salmon and steelhead?

An intensive research program in the U.S. and Canada is studying why so few salmon in the Salish Sea are returning home to spawn. They are uncovering a complex web of problems involving predators, prey and other factors that put salmon at risk as they migrate to the ocean. Puget Sound Institute senior writer Christopher …

A Southern Resident Killer Whale. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Governor signs executive order to protect orcas and Chinook

By Christopher Dunagan for the Puget Sound Institute Worried that Puget Sound’s revered orcas are headed for extinction, Gov. Jay Inslee is calling for quick actions to help the whales — including boosting their food supply and reducing underwater noise that could disrupt their feeding efforts. Surrounded by state and tribal officials, Inslee on Wednesday …

Harbor Seals sunning on intertidal rocks of Puget Sound. Photo: Tony Cyphert (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/tony717/14630242564

Study would explore changes to protections for seals and sea lions

As wildlife managers work to recover Puget Sound’s diminished Chinook population, a proposed white paper is expected to review the impacts of some of the salmon’s chief predators. The study would include a section on potential management of seals and sea lions, prompting open discussion of a long taboo subject: Could officials seek to revise …

Seals and sea lions may be slowing salmon recovery, hurting orcas

Increased consumption of Chinook salmon by seals and sea lions in the Salish Sea “could be masking the success of coastwide salmon recovery efforts,” according to a new study published this week in the journal Scientific Reports. Endangered resident orcas are said to be declining in part due to a lack of available Chinook, the orcas’ preferred prey. …