Panel: reduced salmon fishing may not help orcas

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SEATTLE (AP) -- A panel of U.S. and Canadian scientists says reducing fishermen's catch of Chinook salmon may not increase the availability of prey for endangered Puget Sound orcas.

Their draft report finds that while killer whales feed on Chinook salmon, and their deaths are more likely to occur during years of low Chinook runs, the limited fish runs may not be causing the orca's decline. Another environmental factor may be causing both the low runs and killer whale deaths.

The Kitsap Sun reports (http://bit.ly/JjD2wq ) NOAA's Fisheries Service convened the group of scientists to figure out whether the orca population would do better if salmon fishing were reduced or eliminated.

The federal agency is taking comments on the draft report until June 15.

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Information from: Kitsap Sun, http://www.kitsapsun.com/