SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Salmon fisherman are not the only ones whose livelihood depends on a healthy Chinook salmon population. The sharp drop in king salmon adults returning to Central Valley rivers to spawn also poses a problem for the endangered Orca whale.
Salmon are the primary food source for the predators also known as killer whales.
“Everything is connected to everything else,” said KCBS and Chronicle Outdoors editor Tom Stienstra. Fewer salmon could lead the Orca to catastrophic collapse despite federal protections, he said.
A record low number of salmon are swimming back from the Pacific, according to a recent report from the Pacific Fishery Management Council. In 2008, just 66,264 fish—both wild and from hatcheries—entered the Sacramento River basin.
Salmon mistake the pull from powerful pumps in the San Joaquin River for a strong current that will take them to their mating ground. Instead they die in the machinery.
California and Oregon banned both commercial and recreational fishing was banned when the population dropped from 90,000 in 2007. The season will likely be canceled again this year.