But, said Ken Balcomb, executive director of the Center for Whale Research, the real problem lies in the loss of the orcas' food source: Chinook salmon. While transient orcas (genetically distinct whales who travel through coastal areas) can eat both marine mammals and fish, resident orcas rely almost entirely on salmon.
"When we get to the situation of an obligate salmon-eating population of marine predators - our southern resident killer whales - it should be obvious that if there are insufficient salmon for the whales' dietary needs, whale survival will be at risk, regardless of what the merchants of doubt have said," Balcomb told The Dodo.
Recent political developments, like the emphasis on fish farming, energy development, export and mining have threatened this vital food source. Balcomb said that the only hope for recovery of the whale population rests with recovery of the natural salmon populations. And the way to do that, he says, is to vote for salmon-friendly policies - and to vote against measures that will hurt the salmon.