In recent years, Idaho's Snake River salmon and Puget Sound orcs have joined decades of fighting for the fate of four of the lower Snake River Dams and whether they should leave them to rescue fish.
The orcs, especially the whale of the Southern inhabitant, are in trouble and have been in for a while. This became a strong focus this summer when a member of the Puget Sound Orchestra Subgroup J-pod took the dead calf in 17 days and attracted the global media.
Whales face food shortages, noise from shipyards in busy Puget Sound, and impurities in body fat. All three are affiliated, but what's fascinating is, whales do not get enough to eat, and what they eat is mostly salmon.
There, the salmon that traverses the river valley of the Snake River will come. Whales prefer chinook salmon and eat a variety of stocks up and down the US and Canada on the west coast. Most of the year, from spring to autumn, whales prey on chinooks returning to Puget Sound and Salish Seai in empty rivers, especially the Canadian Fraser River. But they also leave inland waterways in the fall to travel along the coast to look for salmon and to a lesser extent other species before returning to spring.
One of the stocks that whales are seeking during that time are those that originate in the Colombian river basin and its tributaries. It does not bring the Snake River. Orca supporters have formed a philosophical and strategic alliance with Snake River salmon supporters who believe that breaking four dams on the lower Snake River significantly adds the number of salmon and steel heads from the Snake River Basin region. They believe, as do many scientists, that the breach improves the Snake River section enough to lead them to recovery.
Breach: How Much Impact?
So how much trouble the breach helps whales? No one can say for sure, but there are two competing scientific campgrounds where Snake River's chinook run is more important for whales. Those who believe that orcs are more dependent on the falling chinooks of the Columbia and Snake slopes seem to have less benefit from breaking because the chinook runs of autumn are in better shape than the spring chinook runs. And most of the autumn chinooks returning to the Columbia pool are not from the Snake River.
This is the acceptance of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, which is responsible for monitoring and revitalizing both whales and fish. The agency is telling the deadly whales and the Snake River that the agency notes that autumn chinook has done relatively well over the last decade, even though their income has fallen in recent years due to the bad oceans.
"During the last decade, the adult chinook salmon has returned to the Columbia River Bonneville dam, as at any other stage when the pit was completed in 1938. NOAA Fisheries has discovered that ham's incense compensates more than the lost fish for Chinooks for killers," the agency notes in the documentary book .
The agency looks at the entire Colombian basin that can already feed the whales and wants to see improvements from other pools.
"Columbia and Snake waters produce more than half of the west coast of Chinook, this is the place where whales come from, because salmon is here, not because they have disappeared," said NOAA spokeswoman Michael Milstein of Portland.
Milstein said that it is important to work on all the fish stocks that the whales feed.
"They all fish whales at different seasons in different places," he said. "It's not just a river that's critical, it's about the diversity of rivers and the strains they produce, each of which has its own life history and timing."
Those who look at the spring chinook from the Columbia and Snake pools are more important when considering that the breach can have a meaningful effect. Light chinooks are less powerful than the chinooks of autumn and those that weave on the larger Columbia basin are dominated by Snake River stocks. Breaking the pots would help the chinook of spring to a greater extent than the chinook in the autumn, though it would be beneficial in both directions.
Orcas: Chinook Experts
One thing is for sure that the southern inhabitants of the killer whales are chinook salmon experts. It forms the bulk of the fish diet and the whales are not able to eat. NOAA scientists have been trying to measure the relative importance of salmon varieties on the different west coasts so they can figure out how NOAA scientists could drop it. Investigators investigated three factors: if a certain stock occurs in a whale's diet; if it appears in the whale diet during the heavy winter months; and to what extent the fish stocks overlap with time and space with whales throughout the year.
On the basis of this system, the Chinook Columbia pool, including the Snake River drop chinook, was placed relatively high – No. 3 in the list. This is largely due to the fact that autumn chinook is available for whales for the most part of the year. Southern killing whales will feed the autumn chinook on the west coast of the west coast around late autumn about May.
On the contrary, spring quinces are less available for orcs, most whales are out of what scientists call "the outer coast." However, when the spring chinook returns to the spawn in fresh water, the fish gather or step near Colombia's mouth. It is a short window of whales, but some believe because of the density of fish at that time, it is an important source of food.
"The behavior of autumn stocks is usually a coastal state in marine distribution, and they are more accessible to whales, not just during spawning migration," said Mike Ford, head of the Seattle Nature Conservation Federation, Northwest Fisheries Science Center.
"Although spring-time stocks, especially in the interior (running) of Snake and Upper Colombia, the division of their oceans does not really overlap with whales except for the couple of months they return to their spawns," Ford said. "During that time, they could be very important to the whales."
When scientists covered information on the strength of chinook fluids and the whale's health, they discovered that over the years good chinook-time whales had higher birth rates. In fact, in the years 2013-2015, "the baby age rose," Ford said.
Ole Shelton, a research scientist at NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, says that more scientists do not know, then they are doing how the special Chinook and Southern Lakes accident whales interact. He calls it "a very active research area".
But Shelton said scientists know much more autumn chinook runs when there is their overseas distribution than they know about in the spring passes.
"Fall Chinook is usually more coastal, and they are usually more southern than their springtime friends in a particular area. If you look at the lion chinook from the Snake River, they are usually just north of the river, in Vancouver, the island and the central British state, outside, "he said. "Spring chinook is being studied very badly, but the general perception is that they are trying to go further from the shore and further north."
Spring Chinook: Measures Importance
Two of the three Puget Sound killing whales target the spring chinook when the fish stage is near the mouth of the Columbus River in March when the fish prepare to get into the fresh water corner.
"I think it is perfectly reasonable that Snake River Spring Spells seem likely that the likely candidate would be important during that year, which is certainly not very important at other times," Shelton said. "For the season – in the winter and in the spring – you said that the Snake River bracelet is likely to rise considerably higher than other stores, but if you look all year, they are slightly collapsing, we're pretty sure they're not in Puget Sound, Juan de Fucas Strait and Georgia Strait . "
The meaning of spring driving is uncertain, he said.
"I can fully believe if the Snake River Spring Fair would have a lot to make it a healthy (populous) population, and I also see a scenario where it is not true, it's best to do as much as you can for as many stores as you can and to succeed "he said.
Sam Wasser, professor of science, biology, ecology and physiology at the University of Washington, is no doubt that Snake River Chinook is important and even critical to whales. Wasser studied the blood hormones that were found in the feces, which show, among other things, pregnancy and stress levels. His team used a new way to collect faucets. They followed the boats behind the whales and used specially trained dogs who faded and found fevers of whales so that they could crash from the sea level with the pool cleaning nets before they became immersed or faded.
She noticed that 69 per cent of all perceived pregnancies in South America's killer-whites population failed, and over 30 per cent failed in the late term or after, or shortly after birth, when the risk for the mother is much higher. Wasser stated that the cause of the failure was the cause of lack of food.
He and the others measured two hormones in whales that show stress. They found that when the whales returned to the Salish Sea in the spring after feeding from the River Columbian, the whales were small. But it changed quickly, probably because Fraser River chinook is scarcely Salish Sea until mid August.
He said the winter when whales hunted off the US and Canada coasts, is a stressful time for them.
"It's a very tough time for them. It's cold, they have to adjust heat, they do not have large adult salmon that rises to the mouth of the river, they have all the sizes of fish that are harder to get."
Next winter, whales will slowly find food quality from mid to late spring when they target a spring knife tied to the Snake and Columbia rivers. The spring knife stocks that push the furthest upriver are usually the first. They also tend to have a higher fat content to maintain them when they push upriver. Snake River chinook dominates the early return spring kite from the Columbia pool.
"The early returning Columbia River Chinook is one of the most famous salmon," Wasser said. "It was massive. It was something our suggestion suggested, it was very, very important to fill (whales) hard winter and maintain them until the Fraser River chinook drives the peaks, which is not until mid-August.
Since the chinooks between Clearwater and the Salmon River, such as Clearwater and the Salmon River have so far gone, they have grown larger and more fat than other spring chinooks.
"They have to go about 900 miles in the area of immigration, they have become fat laden and early," Wasser said. "It seems to be very important to these whales. It seems that there is one run that is really critical that they can do something dramatic because it's the Columbia River Chinook."
That's why many people seem to be damaging the dam that can help whales. Many whale fans consider it a possible quick fix. Wasser is not among them.
"I'm not saying they should just break the dumps right away," he said. "I think this is something that really deserves serious research, and always so far, whenever that is the case, they say that we can not go there, I think it must be looked at very seriously in order to find a long-term solution. We have a lot of things we can do temporarily. "
Barkeria can be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2273. Follow him on Twitter @ezebarker.