Where are all the Salmon?

Wendy’s recent article about migrating salmon got me thinking about our local Orca population and how these magnificent creatures have been struggling of late. Killer whales like to snack on salmon. And with all the news stories about emaciated Orcas, where’s their salmon? What was the salmon tally this year? Is there a decline in salmon population that may be impacting the food chain?

The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife has been counting salmon at Ballard Locks since 1972. They start their official count every year beginning on June 12th and conclude their count on July 31st. They have data available on their site from 2000 to current year. In addition, I pulled data from the EPA to get sea surface temps and ocean heat.

Sockeye Count Viz Image

Sockeye Count

It appears that in 2000, we had quite the robust salmon population. Over 400,000 sockeye swam through the Ballard Locks during the counting cycle. Something seems to have happened in 2007 to our salmon and they haven’t been able to recover. By 2018, a mere 28,409 salmon were counted.

There are most likely confounding factors causing the dip in salmon count. But we definitely can see that as ocean surface temps and ocean heat have risen, the salmon count has unfortunately gone down.

I hope our salmon recover. Unfortunately, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report last week that has some dire warnings. The Paris agreement said we must try to limit our impact to 1.5°C.


If we do nothing (as appears to be the US/Trump stance by pulling out of the Paris agreement in June, 2017), IPCC forecasts temps nearing the devastating 2°C warming. We’re talking about irreversible damage to our planet in our lifetime!! We can do a deeper dive about predicted environmental impacts in a later post – but we can already see the salmon population dropping with a 1°C net change.

I don’t want to say goodbye to salmon and Orcas. What can we do?

  1. Commute – bus, find ways to carpool, work remote.
  2. Conserve energy – do you really need to take that extra long shower?
  3. Eat your veggies – I don’t think I can become a full vegetarian but limiting my demand for meat helps.
  4. VOTE for the environment in our upcoming midterms!!

Be mindful of your individual contribution. If we all start making micro changes, we can be part of the solution.

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