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Is Washington’s orca task force focusing on the wrong solutions?


Washington’s orca task force released its list of recommendations to revive the local killer whale population, but according to The Outdoor Line’s Tom Nelson, it’s not prioritizing the right solutions.

RELATED: Task force releases recommendations for saving local orcas

The list of recommendations from the task force focuses on three main fixes: Increasing the prey for orcas (primarily Chinook salmon), decreasing noise pollution from boat traffic, and reducing exposure to contaminants in orca habitats.

Nelson’s main issue doesn’t stem as much from the solutions themselves, as much as the amount of time they’ll take.

“If you look at the prey availability recommendations, you go all the way down to recommendation six about increasing hatchery production, and it begins in fiscal year 2020,” he told the Ron and Don Show on KIRO Radio.

He went on to point out that while a fix like habitat improvement could take awhile before it’s fully realized, “hatchery production and predation reduction are the two things that we have on our plate right now.”

When it comes to increasing the population of local salmon, this, Nelson argued, should be priority number one.

“We need to increase hatchery production, not just a little, but a lot,” he added.

Nelson threw his support behind a proposed plan to breed Chinook salmon in Washington’s Deschutes River. Because there are no current stocks of Chinook in that stream, a facility capable of breeding upwards of 10 million smolts a year “wouldn’t affect any other salmonic stocks nearby.”

Why has there been a decrease in Chinook salmon in the first place? Nelson names local seals and sea lions as the likely culprits.

“Seals and sea lions eat six times the combined harvest of tribal, non-tribal, and sport harvest, and twice what the southern resident killer whales eat,” he said.

All that being what it is, he remains optimistic.

“We could solve this problem,” said Nelson.

Washington’s orca task force released its recommendations Oct. 24, and will be accepting public comments until Monday, Oct. 29 through its comment portal. The task force reconvenes Nov. 6 in Puyallup.

You can catch Nelson hosting The Outdoor Line with Robbo Endsley and Robbie Tobeck on 710 ESPN, every Saturday between 6 and 9 a.m. He’s also been featured in four episodes of Outdoor Channel’s “Western Sportfishing,” and several episodes of Fox Sports Northwest’s “Hawg Quest” with Glenn Hall.

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