Southern Resident Killer Whales and Fisheries Interaction Workgroup
NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region has reinitiated consultation under the Endangered Species Act to reconsider impacts of the ocean salmon fishery on the endangered Southern Resident killer whales. The existing NOAA Fisheries consultation on the fishery impacts to the Southern Residents was conducted in 2009, and while the current fisheries are in compliance with the Endangered Species Act, substantial new data has recently become available about the importance of Chinook salmon as prey for the Southern Residents. Therefore, the agency is working closely with the Pacific Fishery Management Council to reconsider the impacts and inform a new consultation.
At its April 2019 meeting, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) established a joint workgroup with NOAA Fisheries to help assess the impacts of Council-area fisheries on Southern Residents. The workgroup will consider how fishery impacts might be limited on Chinook salmon stocks that are important to the Southern Residents. The workgroup will conduct a review of the fisheries and report back with recommendations by the November 2019 PFMC meeting, in time to incorporate potential necessary changes into the development of the PFMC’s recommended 2020 ocean salmon fishery management measures done at its March and April 2020 meetings.
The workgroup includes representatives from West Coast tribes; the states of California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho; the PFMC; and NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, and Southwest Fisheries Science Center.
Purpose and Goals
The workgroup will re-examine the PFMC’s salmon harvest management measures and the potential impacts to Chinook salmon prey available to the whales. The workgroup’s findings will inform NOAA Fisheries’ Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation and biological opinion, wherein NOAA Fisheries will determine whether the fisheries jeopardize the continued existence of the Southern Residents in light of new information about the whales’ dependence on West Coast Chinook salmon stocks.
Specifically, the workgroup will collect and summarize information related to:
- overlap between PFMC salmon fisheries and Southern Residents;
- which Chinook stocks that are priorities for the whales also contribute to PFMC-area salmon fisheries; and
- analyses for other salmon fishery evaluations.
The workgroup may also recommend conservation measures or management tools to limit impacts of ocean salmon fisheries on the Southern Residents.
The workgroup is focused exclusively on addressing the impacts of PFMC-area ocean salmon fisheries through tools or conservation measures that apply to those fisheries. The workgroup will not consider other fisheries or other threats to the Southern Residents, which NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region and its partners are addressing separately.
Opportunities for Public Involvement
Every meeting of the workgroup is open to the public. The workgroup may provide time for public comments at its meetings at the discretion of the workgroup chair, as time allows, and will also provide opportunities for written input. To be of most value to the workrgroup, public input should specifically address the issue of PFMC-area ocean salmon fisheries’ effects on the Southern Residents and possible management actions to limit those impacts.
The workgroup will hold regular meetings that, in some cases, may be in conjunction with PFMC meetings. Some meetings will take place outside of the PFMC meetings.
Supporting materials for upcoming meetings will be posted here in advance of each meeting, categorized by agenda item. We will add presentations from meetings once they become available.
For more information
Killer whales, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region