PCC ends the sale of Pacific Northwest chinook salmon

Like many of you, we have watched and learned about the struggle of our southern resident killer whales (SRKWs) to survive for lack of enough food. Our SRKWs are dependent on the health of chinook salmon runs for as much as 80 percent of their diet. 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. We are simply doing our part as a co-op grocer to ensure, as we have for decades, that our supply chain helps to protect our region’s vital ecosystems.

The SRKW population inhabits local waters from the northern part of Vancouver Island south to Olympia and west through the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Pacific Ocean. It is a unique population in that they primarily eat chinook salmon. Research cited by Wild Orca shows that there is a high rate of SRKW deaths when chinook salmon runs are low.

Historically, SRKWs thrived on salmon from the Columbia River but with Columbia runs at less than 10 percent of their original population, the Northwest Fisheries Science Center has found that the orcas primarily rely on chinook from the Fraser River for their sustenance in the summer. Unfortunately, chinook runs on the Fraser, as well as the Columbia and Sacramento Rivers, have declined. SRKWs lack the chinook they need to survive.

We acknowledge that lack of prey is only one of several key threats to SRKW 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.

PCC will continue selling other sustainably harvested salmon, including sockeye, which is our best seller.We also will continue to review our sustainable seafood standard so that it remains protective of marine ecosystems and SRKWs.

PCC’s commitment to the environment is longstanding. This year, we committed to a comprehensive set of sustainability goals that reduce our environmental impact and protect our waters. Increasing the number of organic products that we sell reduces toxic pesticide runoff into waterways. Expanding electric vehicle charging stations means less oil runoff into Puget Sound. And our commitment to 100 percent renewable energy and net climate positive store operations addresses climate change, which threatens salmon with reduced snowpack and warmer spawning streams.

We also will continue to partner with organizations like Chinook Winery to donate $2 on special bottles of wine to Long Live the Kings. And our grant recipients, Salmon Safe and the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, continue to push our concerns upstream.

Long live the chinook, and long live the orcas.

Related reading

Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act

Sign-on letter supporting legislation to better protect essential fish habitats, minimize bycatch, and account for the critical ecological role of forage fish.

Net pen aquaculture is unsustainable

Letter to the Washington Dept. of Ecology about the risks of expanded aquaculture in local waters.