In March the Pacific Fishery Management Council approved the ad hoc Southern Resident Killer Whale Workgroup’s draft risk assessment. A final version, incorporating an executive summary and minor edits, is expected by June.
The draft is available at https://www.pcouncil.org/documents/2020/02/e-3-a-srkw-workgroup-report-1-electronic-only.pdf/
The Workgroup has been assessing the effects of Council-area ocean salmon fisheries on the chinook salmon prey base of southern resident killer whales.
This assessment will help inform NOAA Fisheries’ Biological Opinion on the effects of Council-area ocean salmon fisheries on the whales’ chinook salmon prey base. The Workgroup has begun developing recommendations for management measures based on the Risk Assessment, which will go out to the Salmon Advisory Subpanel and the public for review before the Council gives its final recommendations for a long term BiOp in November.
This topic is tentatively scheduled for the June, September, and November Council meetings. The next Workgroup meeting is April 28 via webinar. For meeting schedules, materials, and other information, see the NOAA Fisheries’ webpage dedicated to the workgroup.
On a related note, a one-year BiOp will be in effect for 2020, using criteria described in the NMFS guidance letter.
That guidance focused mainly on chinook stocks in the area north of Cape Falcon, Oregon, as those are the stocks NOAA Fisheries is most concerned about when abundances are critically low.
NOAA Fisheries’ guidance stated that if the 2020 forecasted chinook abundance in the area north of Cape Falcon was equal to or less than average of the seven lowest years of abundance, then the Council should take precautionary conservation measures for all ocean salmon fisheries that affect that chinook abundance to benefit the whales.
The Council adopted 2020 ocean salmon management measures in April, which were well within the 2020 BiOp requirements.