Conflicts can arise when the recovery of one protected species limits the recovery of another through competition or predation. The recovery of many marine mammal populations on the west coast of the United States has been viewed as a success; however, within Puget Sound in Washington State, the increased abundance of three protected pinniped species may be adversely affecting the recovery of threatened Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and endangered killer whales (Orcinus orca) within the region. Between 1970 and 2015, we estimate that the annual biomass of Chinook salmon consumed by pinnipeds has increased from 68 to 625 metric tons. Converting juvenile Chinook salmon into adult equivalents, we found that by 2015, pinnipeds consumed double that of resident killer whales and six times greater than the combined commercial and recreational catches. We demonstrate the importance of interspecific interactions when evaluating species recovery. As more protected species respond positively to recovery efforts, managers should attempt to evaluate tradeoffs between these recovery efforts and the unintended ecosystem consequences of predation and competition on other protected species.

Authors: Chasco, Brandon; Kaplan, Isaac C.; Thomas, Austen; Acevedo-Gutiérrez, Alejandro; Noren, Dawn; Ford, Michael J.; Hanson, M. Bradley; Scordino, Jonathan; Jeffries, Steve; Pearson, Scott; Marshall, Kristin N., Ward, Eric J.

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Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 2017, 74(8): 1173-1194
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22 pages