Homegrown grocery chain PCC Community Markets has removed locally raised Chinook salmon (also known as king salmon) from their shelves due to orca whales' struggle to survive with a depleted food source. As of September 10, Chinook salmon in various forms were pulled from PCC Markets shelves. This decision follows the viral coverage of a mother whale, Tahlequah, carrying her dead baby calf for seventeen days after it had passed. The calf was born on July 24, but was unfortunately malnourished. As news quickly spread, suddenly the longstanding conservation effort caught new wind. With heartstrings decidedly pulled to near breaking point, it’s hard to hold hands and skip through farmers’ markets when our ecosystem is clearly impacted by our local-fish-loving eating habits. So, a handful of restaurants and grocers alike are making changes.
PCC CEO Cate Hardy says that Tahlequah's mourning touched her entire team and served as the ultimate wake up call: “So much of what happens in our waters and oceans is invisible, literally, and beneath the surface—most of us can't see it, we can't smell it, we don't know what’s happening and here it was made visible for us.” (While Tahlequah inspired action in corporations like PCC Markets, native Northwest communities have been acutely aware of this problem for decades.)
Hardy would like to see other grocers follow in their footsteps: “I hope that this doesn’t fade into the background.”
PCC Markets isn't the only local business taking a stand. Chef Renee Erickson announced in August that she has removed Chinook salmon from her menus at her many restaurants including The Walrus and The Carpenter and the aptly named, The Whale Wins. Erickson’s restaurant group, Sea Creatures, said in a recent newsletter: “We can’t help but feel that Tahlequah’s public mourning is attempting to call our attention to our beloved orcas and the sad state of the environment. As Sea Creatures we must act.”
PCC will still sell Chinook raised in Alaska, as well as their bestseller Sockeye.