As a stellar sea lion, my consumption of Chinook barely holds a candle to the number eaten by harbor seals. We consumed less Chinook individuals in 2010 than harbor seals ate in the early 1980s. These days, scientists estimate that we eat around 1 million individuals annually. Compare this to the 50 million individual Chinook eaten by harbor seals, or the ~13,000 metric tons eaten by Orcas, who sometimes eat us, too! Stellars like myself only consume ~1400 metric tons annually. Please keep us on the Endangered Species List, and focus management decisions on how to improve Chinook habitat for marine and human mammals alike.
Figure three shows four charts depicting the consumption of Chinook salmon at various ages and which predators are eating them at those times. It’s clear that killer whales are the largest predator of Chinook by mass, eating only adults. This potentially means that killer whales are potentially the most efficient predator by number of salmon eaten, giving them time to grow and mature. Harbor seals however, lye on the opposite side of the spectrum, consuming around 27.4 million juvenile smote. If intervention needs to take place, it should be from the place of lowest efficiency, from the harbor seals.
By choosing to protect the marine mammals and not consider the entire food chain, you have doomed me as a Chinook Salmon. In my life cycle I have to pass through gauntlet after gauntlet to insure that many ecosystems can feast on my family. From Central California to Alaska and back, we are the ones who feed you (Fig. 2). While we ourselves are predators, we are the arbiters of regional health. Instead of loving on your fellow apex predators consider who it is that really needs support. Where ever we go, you go, and we’re heading to disaster.
As a commercial fisherman, it’s tough to cohabitate with the other predators. In places like central/northern California and the Colombia river, marine predators are consuming more salmon than we are (figure 4)! This sends us right back to the drawing board. Our intentions in cutting back on salmon to more evenly distribute and plan for more sustainable fisheries is not proportional to the number of salmon who survive migration. It is important for policy-makers to acknowledge the inequity and uncertainty here. It may be necessary for us to zoom out and “identify major tradeoffs and explore [other] hypotheses” (p. 7).
As a killer whale in the Salish Sea, Figure 5 troubles me greatly. Before 1980, my brothers and sisters in the Salish were living in abundance of Chinook salmon. Over the years, however, the availability of adult salmon has been falling quickly (5a) and I fear that soon it won’t be able to sustain our needs. We haven’t even had a notable increase in salmon consumption (5c), so it is unfair that our prey availability is dropping so quickly. I have become accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and I am not willing to sacrifice it for any other marine mammal.
Figure 3, from the perspective of a Killer Whale. Name are arbitrary, but “killer whale?” That seems extreme. We are merely pawns in an ecosystem, eating to survive, to support our young; we are no different from you. Yes, these graphs show that the amount of Chinook we have eaten has risen over the years, but our impact is still smaller than that of harbor seals, California sea lions, and Steller sea lions. We are a vulnerable species, merely trying to survive, so please do not point fingers. Look towards man. Change his ways. Help the Chinook. Help us all.