The Southern Resident whales are endangered and considered to be the most at-risk marine mammals in the world. Their preferred prey, Chinook salmon, which makes up 80 percent of a Southern Residents diet, has shown a dramatic dip in numbers over the years. Simply put, if Chinook could reach their historical spawning grounds there would be more fish. Unfortunately, scientists have discovered that without enough food, the Southern Resident population is going hungry and not thriving.
Replenishing the Chinook salmon supply comes with its own set of challenges. Dam removal along the lower Snake River would make the fish migration route as accessible as it had been. Currently, the upper Snake River Chinook salmon population is down more than 75 percent compared to when the dams were up and running. Many of the dams are no longer needed and can be replaced by alternative sources that would ultimately restore the Chinook habitat.
It’s important that citizens stay informed on how to help rebuild the Chinook salmon population. Salmon restoration is imperative to the lives and livelihood of the Southern Residents, humans, and the ecosystem as a whole.