SALMON FEEDS THIS PLACE
Fact: 16 million salmon of all species used to pass through the mouth of the Columbia River every year.
In 2016, only 2 million did. The Southern Residents’ diet is 85% salmon, and mostly Chinook (King) Salmon. But the salmon is also going extinct. We are overfishing wild salmon stocks. And the salmon that don’t get caught are infected with a virus from farmed salmon which causes Chinook salmons’ blood cells to explode. Climate change is also a major issue. The salmon can’t survive the increasingly high temperatures of the rivers. In early summer 2015, unprecedented high temperatures hit the lower mainstem Columbia River and tributaries. Of all Redfish Lake sockeye salmon detected passing Bonneville Dam, only 4% survived to Lower Granite Dam, and none survived after temperatures exceeded 20°C at Bonneville. This brings us to the dams. Dams block the migration route of salmon, destroy habitat, and alter the flow of rivers. Four obsolete dams block the lower Snake River. Each year, approximately 2 million salmon die trying to return to their spawning grounds in the Snake River.
THE OCEANS ARE LOUD
Fact: 11 thousand big vessels transit through the Haro Strait, Boundary Pass, and the strait of Georgia each year.
This is in addition to countless recreational, whale watching, and fishing boats. The Salish Sea is one of the busiest seas in the world. Why does that matter? The Southern Resident Killer Whales hunt and socialize by echolocating. They locate objects by reflecting sound. With tankers and barges, recreational boaters, commercial and recreational fishing boats, and whale watching, the orcas struggle to locate their food. Now, if the Salish Sea was filled with the one million salmon every year that it needs to sustain its wildlife, noise disturbance wouldn’t be as much of an issue, but this isn’t the case. Now the government of Canada is working to expand a pipeline that would increase traffic sevenfold, increase noise disturbance and the chances of a spill that would decimate the Southern Residents’ population.
POLLUTANTS ARE POISONS
Fact: Pollutants like PCBs and DDT who have been banned since the 1970s are still in use and are still found in oceans and seas around the world.
Because they are apex predators, killer whales accumulate higher concentrations of toxins as they move up the food chain. Orcas have a high levels of PCBs, DDT, and PBDEs mercury, dioxins, and furans that remain in the marine environment and build up within their fatty tissues. The lack of food causes the orcas to metabolize blubber, releasing the stored contaminants and compromising reproductive and immune systems. Since 2015, there has been no successful births and most of the calves born in the baby boom of 2015 have starved to death. (photo of J50 and J35).