July 12th, 2024

B.C. trawlers dump thousands of salmon, depleting orcas’ food source: wildlife group

By The Canadian Press on January 19, 2024.

A British Columbia wildlife protection group says a primary food source of threatened southern resident killer whales is being caught in a commercial fishery that tosses chinook salmon overboard or turns them into compost. A southern resident killer whale swims past a school of salmon near the Fraser River, B.C. in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Keith Holmes, Hakai Institute *MANDATORY CREDIT*

VICTORIA – A British Columbia wildlife protection group says tens of thousands of chinook salmon are being dumped overboard or turned into compost by a commercial fishery that is threatening a primary food source of threatened southern resident killer whales.

Pacific Wild says it has obtained a recent Fisheries and Oceans Canada report on the groundfish trawl fishery that shows more than 26,000 chinook were netted as bycatch during the 2022-2023 commercial fishery.

The group says the report estimates more than 20,000 chinook caught in the nets were dead and thrown overboard while another 3,700 were either discarded as offal, waste or compost.

Pacific Wild marine specialist Sydney Dixon says the bycatch of the trawl fishery recorded by the Department of Fisheries was enough to feed three or four southern resident killer whales for a year, out of a total population of 75.

The Fisheries Department says in a statement that it can’t comment on its bycatch report until it is released publicly, likely within days.

Dixon says the bycatch is an “appalling waste,” not just for a salmon species that is listed as threatened or endangered in B.C. and American waters, but also when the survival of southern resident killer whales is at stake.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2024.

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