Feeding our Endangered Orcas initiative starts in Sooke
A unique salmon enhancement project on Vancouver Island is looking to increase large adult Chinook salmon in the Juan De Fuca Strait to feed hungry south resident killer whales.
The South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition and whale watching companies have joined forces to try and help feed resident killer whales.
The unique program has been approved by Fisheries and Oceans and is locally funded and operated.
The Feeding our Endangered Orcas initiative is in its first year, but Dan Kukat, past president of the Pacific Whale Watching Association says they hope to expand the number of salmon to one million within three years. "We're dipping our toes in the water here, we hope to bring this 220,000 number up to about a million in a few years time."
Rollie Rose with the South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition says the plan is to raise and release more than 200,000 healthy Chinook salmon smolts currently being held in a holding enclosure in the Sooke basin. "The whales have been a part of my life since I started to fish and it would be a sad day to see either one of them go."
Killer whales are picky eaters and prefer Chinook salmon to other fish and experts indicate the numbers of Chinook salmon have been dropping which has contributed to the decline in the South Island Orca population.
In 2016, seven southern resident killer whales died bringing the endangered population to seventy-eight.