Tue, 15 Nov 2011 09:00 CST
Southern resident killer whales, which live off the coast of Washington State and British Columbia, are one of the most critically endangered groups of marine mammals in American waters.
Both killer whales and Chinook salmon are endangered in the Pacific Northwest. And one of the biggest problems facing both animals is that one eats the other.
According to a new study, a single small and vulnerable group of whales may eat close to a quarter of the salmon run in British Columbia's Fraser River -- and that's just in the summertime.
The findings emphasize the importance, when trying to save one creature, of looking out for everything that hunts and is hunted by it. In this case, whales can't rebound unless the fish bounces back, also. But saving both of them is not that simple.
"This is a case where one endangered species is eating another endangered species," said Rob Williams, a marine conservation biologist now at the University of St. Andrews in the United Kingdom. "We're not going to get anywhere if we have single-species management that doesn't recognize that what is good for one species may be bad for another."
Southern resident killer whales, which live off the coast of Washington State and British Columbia, are one of the most critically endangered groups of marine mammals living in American waters. At last count, the population consisted of just 87 whales.