Lots of chinook for SRKW

Smalma

Active Member
I don't understand why the orca folks have such a difficult time understanding that it is not the number of salmon available to the SRKWs but the rather the biomass of Chinook (and more specially the number of larger salmon) that is critical to their survival.

Orcas are relatively large animals that generally have evolved to prey on large food items - whales, sharks, seals etc. World wide there are at least 10 ecotypes of orcas with most classified as large types (including the SRKWs). Those SRKWs evolved to feed on Chinook when the Chinook populations contained many larger individuals (fish 5 to 7 years old and weighing 40# to more than 80#) that the orcas to easily achieve their diet needs by capturing their food in large chunks. That is no longer the case with few Chinook weighting 40# or more; instead most of the available Puget Sound fall Chinook weight only 10 or 12 pound with virtually no 6 or 7 year old fish and very few 5 years in the population.

An indication of how much PS hatchery fall Chinook have shrunk is the numbers of jacks in the population. In the last 2 years the number of jacks in the aggregate of PS hatcheries returns (rack counts) have exceeded 25% of the return. Contrast that with the jack returns hatchery aggregate for the Chehalis, Willapa Bay and lower Columbia where jack contribution in 2020 was 4.5% and in 2021 it was 2.5%. AS little as 40 or 50 years ago a Puget Sound Chinook jack (2 year mature males) was considered to be a fish of less than 28 inches. Today the average hatchery fish caught in the Summer in central PS (MA 9 and MA 10) is only 28.5 inches long - barely larger than jacks a few decades ago. Those recreationally caught fish average only 3.3 years old while the average age at the Soos Creek hatchery in 2019 was only 3.1 years old; thanks in part of the jack contribution to population. Of those jacks at Soos Creek more than 90% was less than 22 inches long (the minimum size limit in the marine creational fishery) with some as small as 12 inches..

Remember these changes in the size of the SRKW forage base has occurred in only 1 or 2 orca generations giving the orcas little time to adapt to that changing forage basin.

Curt
 

Thomas Mitchell

corvus ossifragus
WFF Premium
Curt-

The presence of very small jacks was well noted on the Sol Duc this season. I personally saw many that were barely using 12 inches. There were so many that the guides invented a new name, "micro-jacks", to distinguish them from what we normally see. The increase in these very small mature fish was pretty striking.
 

wetswinger

Active Member
The Deshutes at Olympia had a huge Chinook run this year and people were catching Jacks off the beaches where they've never been encountered before, up and down Budd Inlet..
 

adamcu280

Active Member
I don't understand why the orca folks have such a difficult time understanding that it is not the number of salmon available to the SRKWs but the rather the biomass of Chinook (and more specially the number of larger salmon) that is critical to their survival.

Orcas are relatively large animals that generally have evolved to prey on large food items - whales, sharks, seals etc. World wide there are at least 10 ecotypes of orcas with most classified as large types (including the SRKWs). Those SRKWs evolved to feed on Chinook when the Chinook populations contained many larger individuals (fish 5 to 7 years old and weighing 40# to more than 80#) that the orcas to easily achieve their diet needs by capturing their food in large chunks. That is no longer the case with few Chinook weighting 40# or more; instead most of the available Puget Sound fall Chinook weight only 10 or 12 pound with virtually no 6 or 7 year old fish and very few 5 years in the population.

An indication of how much PS hatchery fall Chinook have shrunk is the numbers of jacks in the population. In the last 2 years the number of jacks in the aggregate of PS hatcheries returns (rack counts) have exceeded 25% of the return. Contrast that with the jack returns hatchery aggregate for the Chehalis, Willapa Bay and lower Columbia where jack contribution in 2020 was 4.5% and in 2021 it was 2.5%. AS little as 40 or 50 years ago a Puget Sound Chinook jack (2 year mature males) was considered to be a fish of less than 28 inches. Today the average hatchery fish caught in the Summer in central PS (MA 9 and MA 10) is only 28.5 inches long - barely larger than jacks a few decades ago. Those recreationally caught fish average only 3.3 years old while the average age at the Soos Creek hatchery in 2019 was only 3.1 years old; thanks in part of the jack contribution to population. Of those jacks at Soos Creek more than 90% was less than 22 inches long (the minimum size limit in the marine creational fishery) with some as small as 12 inches..

Remember these changes in the size of the SRKW forage base has occurred in only 1 or 2 orca generations giving the orcas little time to adapt to that changing forage basin.

Curt
The "orca folks" are well aware of what you're talking about. The paper even discusses the shrinking size of pacific salmon and the potential long term effects on SRKW.

Regarding the UBC media article that stated "this is the first study to use acoustic surveys to estimate the relative abundance of large salmons in the Salish sea." Back in 2004 I took part in a UW pilot study with Dr. Stephané Gauthier that did a similar thing for similar reasons "In this pilot study, we combined acoustic survey techniques with net trawling to quantitatively describe the distribution of pelagic fish and killer whales within the summer range of the southern resident killer whale population." We had lots of discussions on how trawling was not the best way to ground-truth for potential salmon signals so I'm glad to see they updated their methods for this latest study. Here's the report.

Back to the UBC paper: J pod traveled through the 2018 study area numerous times. During the 2019 field season there were no sightings of SRKW in the study area. SRKW only visited the Salish Sea a couple times from early May to mid-August 2019. There were multiple reports of SRKW present on Swiftsure Bank, which is not far to the west of the study area.

I'm interested to see the response from the drone study people because I'm pretty sure they do their data collection in the spring and in the late summer to help detect seasonal variations in body condition. Same with fecal sample people.

2021 anecdotal info from a colleague at DFO that works on NRKW in Johnstone Strait:

SRKW prey paper

Guess it's not really recreational angler's fault. Wonder what the whale watching industry spin will be..

Nobody worth listening to has ever claimed it's solely "recreational angler's fault". Anybody worth listening to will always say it's a combination of many factors.

Edit: grammar
 
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fishbadger

Active Member
In other SRKW news…..
SF

Ugh, this deserves a rant all its own. It was pretty predictable, but still. . . these MF'ers. . .
fb
 

thatguyryry

Active Member
I don't understand why the orca folks have such a difficult time understanding that it is not the number of salmon available to the SRKWs but the rather the biomass of Chinook (and more specially the number of larger salmon) that is critical to their survival.

Orcas are relatively large animals that generally have evolved to prey on large food items - whales, sharks, seals etc. World wide there are at least 10 ecotypes of orcas with most classified as large types (including the SRKWs). Those SRKWs evolved to feed on Chinook when the Chinook populations contained many larger individuals (fish 5 to 7 years old and weighing 40# to more than 80#) that the orcas to easily achieve their diet needs by capturing their food in large chunks. That is no longer the case with few Chinook weighting 40# or more; instead most of the available Puget Sound fall Chinook weight only 10 or 12 pound with virtually no 6 or 7 year old fish and very few 5 years in the population.

An indication of how much PS hatchery fall Chinook have shrunk is the numbers of jacks in the population. In the last 2 years the number of jacks in the aggregate of PS hatcheries returns (rack counts) have exceeded 25% of the return. Contrast that with the jack returns hatchery aggregate for the Chehalis, Willapa Bay and lower Columbia where jack contribution in 2020 was 4.5% and in 2021 it was 2.5%. AS little as 40 or 50 years ago a Puget Sound Chinook jack (2 year mature males) was considered to be a fish of less than 28 inches. Today the average hatchery fish caught in the Summer in central PS (MA 9 and MA 10) is only 28.5 inches long - barely larger than jacks a few decades ago. Those recreationally caught fish average only 3.3 years old while the average age at the Soos Creek hatchery in 2019 was only 3.1 years old; thanks in part of the jack contribution to population. Of those jacks at Soos Creek more than 90% was less than 22 inches long (the minimum size limit in the marine creational fishery) with some as small as 12 inches..

Remember these changes in the size of the SRKW forage base has occurred in only 1 or 2 orca generations giving the orcas little time to adapt to that changing forage basin.

Curt
Curt are you aware of any evidence why this change has occurred? Is this removal of these populations by hunting and fishing has made those smaller Chinook the better survivors or is this because there is less forage to support adults in the ocean staying out there longer
 

adamcu280

Active Member
Jack Orca could be a future phenomenon, like the pygmy mammoth.
We "Orca folks" already have Pygmy killer whales Feresa attenuata and False killer whales Pseudorca crassidens.

Then there are the poorly known Type D Orcinus orca, which are likely to be a separate species once the taxonomists sort them out.

Scroll through this gallery for a bunch of photos that my colleagues and I took of the aforementioned odontocetes, plus a bunch of other species.

 
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