MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — Plans for managing coastal chinook salmon fisheries that take into account endangered Southern Resident orca whales are taking shape.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council, which manages coastal fisheries along Washington, Oregon and California, approved rules Monday to ensure salmon are available for the imperiled whales to eat.

“In years of low chinook abundance, these measures are mostly focused on reducing catch, particularly in areas and at times thought to be important for whale foraging,” Pacific Fishery Management Council Deputy Director Mike Burner said.

He said the rules now go to the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Secretary of Commerce. If approved, the rules will be incorporated into the Pacific Coast Salmon Fishery Management Plan.

The council approved nine actions to curb commercial and recreational coastal chinook fisheries throughout the region if the number of chinook forecast to be available north of Oregon’s Cape Falcon falls below 966,000. That threshold is the average of the seven lowest years of fish abundance since 1994.

In the region north of Cape Falcon, recreational chinook fishing quotas would be reduced and the spring commercial troll quota halved.

Various seasonal closures and delays of recreational chinook fishing and commercial troll fishing would also be implemented in areas of Oregon and California.

The rules could apply to the state’s North of Falcon fisheries as soon as spring 2021, said Kyle Addicks, a state Department of Fish & Wildlife staff member who participates on the council.

Nonprofits interested in seeing the orcas recover, from the international organization Oceana to the local organization Wild Orca, are excited about the proposed changes for salmon management.

“We must find a way to recover salmon, protect their habitat, and make sure there are enough in the ocean for orcas to eat and raise their young,” Oceana’s Pacific Campaign Manager and Senior Scientist Ben Enticknap said in a news release. “There’s a way to balance salmon fishing with the needs of these endangered orcas, and today’s action by the fishery council represents a first step in that direction.”

The council has been working toward these rules under the direction of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service since early 2019.

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