Saturday, February 25, 2006

How Much For An Orca?

(photo credit)

Dave Neiwert has an awesome article on resident orca populations in this week's Seattle Weekly in which he issues marching orders to the various people involved with trying to save local resident orca pods. Researchers, there needs to be more evidence that the Snake River dams are depriving the pods of the chinnok salmon that are their main food source. Get to it. Environmental action groups, the Endangered Species Act is a powerful weapon that can be leveraged in court against the dams that are killing those salmon. Chop chop.

His awesome article becomes even awesomer when you read his blog post about it where he realizes what he left out. Whale watching is big business and someone needs to figure out exactly how big. Eastern Washingtonians are pretty attached to their dams and the money the generate. Healthy whales also have a financial value, it turns out.

Eric de Place at Cascadia Scorecard similarly assigned dollar value to endangered species this week:

In Idaho, fully functioning sport salmon fisheries have been valued as high as $544 million per year. Though that estimate is disputed, it's for just one year for one of the several states where that $160 million was spent in 2004 to assist king salmon.

These guys aren't pondering the monetary value of salmon and orcas for the fun of it, of course. They're responding to a Washington Post article that attacks the Endangered Species Act on financial grounds: They are called by many names, but considering how much the government spends to protect them, their name in Alaska and some other regions -- king salmon -- seems most apt.

In 2004, federal and state governments spent more than $160 million to preserve that salmon species, commonly known as chinook -- listed by the federal government as endangered in the early 1990s. And that doesn't include the millions spent on other kinds of salmon, such as sockeye, coho and chum.

Posted by Dan in Environment