SEATTLE - PCC Community Markets will no longer sell Pacific Northwest chinook salmon.
Officials with the company announced the decision, in response to the plight of endangered Pacific Northwest orcas, Monday, Sept. 10.
"Like many of you, we have watched and learned about the struggle of our southern resident killer whales to survive for lack of enough food," a PCC spokesperson wrote.
"For this reason, PCC Community Markets will no longer sell chinook (king) salmon caught in the waters of Washington, Oregon or British Columbia in our stores."
Orcas that inhabit local waters predominantly eat chinook salmon. PCC cited research by Wild Orca showing a high rate of orca deaths tied to low availability of chinook salmon.
The markets will continue selling other sustainably harvested salmon, including sockeye, and will sell Alaska chinook salmon, with the knowledge that a small percentage of fish caught originate in the Pacific Northwest, PCC officials said.
Recently, an iconic Seattle restaurant made the same decision, removing chinook salmon from its menu.
Renee Erickson, whose restaurants include The Walrus and the Carpenter and the Whale Wins, among several others, said she had been thinking about the issue for at least a year.
She also considered whether she should serve salmon at all.
"As humans, we have to start paying attention," said Erickson.
She removed chinook salmon from the menus of each one of her restaurants.
PCC's Brenna Davis said Monday that the image of a mother orca pushing her dead calf in the water for days this summer prompted PCC Community Markets to think about what it could do.
An endangered orca mother clung to her dead calf for more than two weeks after her newborn died.
Michael Milstein, a spokesman with NOAA Fisheries, reported back as researchers tracked the 20-year-old whale, known as J35, carrying her dead young off the tip of Washington's Olympic Peninsula.
The calf died July 24 and an image of the mother whale clinging to her dead newborn struck an emotional chord worldwide.
Milstein said researchers with Fisheries and Ocean Canada were also tracking another member of the same pod, a 3 ½-year old whale, J50, that was emaciated. That ailing orca was seen swimming with her mom.
PCC Markets included in its announcement on stopping distribution of Pacific Northwest chinook salmon an acknowledgment of the many other issues affecting the health of endangered orcas:
"We acknowledge that lack of prey is only one of several key threats to southern resident killer whales' survival. Vessel noise makes it hard for them to communicate over long distances. Toxins accumulate in their bodies and are passed to their offspring. Dams and culverts are blocking salmon from accessing upstream waters. We can’t solve all of those issues within our co-op walls but eliminating Pacific Northwest chinook salmon from our stores is one small, actionable step we can take to help tip the scales ever so slightly in the favor of orca survival."
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