Seattle Times guest editorial shows growing support for predation control to save salmon and orcas
But emphasis on habitat misses the mark
A guest editorial on January 15 in the Seattle Times by Lorraine Loomis and Phil Anderson shows there is growing awareness of the need to address the serious harbor seal and sea lion problem in the Salish Sea if we are to see recovery of chinook salmon and the Southern Resident orcas that depend on them.
Loomis is the head of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and Anderson is the former director of Washington State Fish and Wildlife Department.
We are encouraged to see the call for a coalition to address these concerns because that is what it will take to steer the Governor and the Task Force in a more productive direction. (See our post on why the Governor has failed to address key issues.) But we are also concerned that Loomis and Anderson gloss over a key issue related to habitat.
In the study they cite in their editorial (one we have frequently cited) habitat is clearly demonstrated not to be the crucial issue in chinook and orca recovery. That's because the NOAA study shows that in the past forty years we have nearly doubled the production of chinook, both through hatchery and increased wild production. Habitat measures are working. Yes, we need more. Because we want even more chinook than the 400+ million now being produced. But the declining returns of chinook are because the smolts can grow to adult hood needed for the orcas and fisheries. Other experts have shown why: ocean warming and predation.
We discuss this in our analysis of this. We can't do a lot immediately to address ocean warming, but we can address predation. Loomis and Anderson also mention dams as a limiting factor, but NOAA shows that there are more salmon returning through the dams now than before the dams were built!
Our message to Loomis and Anderson: we are grateful that you are recognizing the need for a unified coalition. Let's use that coalition to address the real issue that we can actually do something about: predation.