Killer whales and Chinook Salmon are both protected species because of their dwindling numbers, but Pacific Northwest killer Orca whales are focusing their palates on the Chinook Salmon, making the recovery process for both animals more than a little interesting.
There are approximately 90 Killer Whales in the region who travel along the coast of the Pacific Northwest of the United States and southern Canada. If you have had the chance to travel in the San Juans of the United States and see them from the ferry, you know that the Orcas are not small- the killer whales weigh in at 6,000-12,000 pounds. The whales are not what I would call light eaters either- they eat “up to 300 pounds of fish a day”.
The unfortunate part is how much Chinook salmon the Orcas are eating from already endangered populations in southern Canada.
To determine what the Orcas were eating, the researchers followed the Orcas for four years between 2004-2008 and studied the “fish scales, fish feces, and whale feces” that was in the water as the Orcas fed. While the researchers admit that this was probably not the most scientific of methods, they were still able to analyze what they collected to figure out which kinds of fish the Orca whales were eating and in some instances, exactly where the fish were from by using DNA testing, which they say is a reliable tool.