Study: Chinook salmon are key to Northwest orcas all year

Orca whales

SEATTLE (AP) — A new study from federal researchers provides the most detailed look yet at what the Pacific Northwest’s endangered orcas eat.

Scientists with the NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center spent years collecting fecal samples from the whales as well as scales from the fish they devoured.

They say their data reaffirm the central importance of Chinook salmon to the whales.

The researchers said the whales sometimes eat other species, including halibut, lingcod and steelhead, but they depend most on Chinook.

And they consumed the big salmon from a wide range of sources — from those that spawn in California’s Sacramento River all the way to the Taku River in northern British Columbia.


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