Chinook safe, runs threatened
December 3, 2011 · Updated 5:44 AM
Nobody eats dodo birds anymore; they are extinct.
How can chinook salmon be extinct and still account for 80 percent of the diet of Southern Resident Orcas as claimed in the Orca Network article (Whidbey News, Sept. 11)?
Chinook are not extinct, nor are 13 species of salmon endangered, but some of their “runs” may be.
Species is a term used to classify organisms with similar genetic characteristics. Species of salmon, such as chinook, chum, coho, pink and sockeye, each consist of hundreds of populations (called runs or races) in rivers from Alaska to California. Runs may cease to exist or decline in a given system, but the effect on the entire species may be minimal.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned about decreases in the abundance of individual salmon runs -- just be more precise about the terminology and the problem. The loss of chinook RUNS may influence the lives of Orcas, as well as those of fishermen, eh?
Bernard Einar Skud
Marine biologist (ret.)