In nod to endangered orcas, local restaurant owner takes Chinook off the menu

SEATTLE -- A well-known restaurateur has pulled Chinook salmon from the menu in an effort to bring attention to the endangered southern resident orca.

And other species of salmon are on the chopping block - well, in this case, off the chopping block - as well.

Renee Erickson, the owner and chef of The Whale Wins and other Sea Creatures restaurants, said she's considered removing salmon from her menus altogether, moving instead to more sustainable seafood.

"I've considered not selling for awhile - across the board - not just Chinook," Erickson said.

A Northwest local, Erickson told Q13 News she didn't take the decision to remove Chinook lightly. But as she followed the "tour of grief" from J35 carrying her dead calf, and considered the plight of the southern resident killer whale, she knew it was time for something.

"At the end of the day, it didn't make sense for us to sell what is depleted and isn't recovering," Erickson said.

Chinook salmon are the primary food source of the southern resident.

Even a frequent visitor to the Whale Wins or The Walrus and the Carpenter might not notice the menu change, Erickson said. It's been months since Chinook has been served.

With seasonal menus and other salmon like coho and sockeye showing better numbers, Erickson has shied away from plates of Chinook. The restaurants "never always" had Chinook on the menu, she said.

Still, its taste will be missed.

"It's an amazing fish," Erickson said.

Erickson's move was first published by the Seattle Times Wednesday. She hasn't heard a lot from patrons either way yet, she said.

Erickson said state fisheries do a wonderful job managing catch quotas and prioritize sustainability. But population regeneration is "not as fast" as it should be in any salmon species, she said.

As she considers removing all salmon, she's keeping a close eye on the science and the numbers, she said.

In the meantime, why not focus on other more sustainable options, she wondered.

Her restaurants serve plenty of rockfish, shellfish and squid. It's time seafood restaurants and patrons move away from classic ideas of seafood.

"People have been led to believe that they could only eat tuna and salmon and shrimp," she said. "The industry is like a steam engine, it's hard to stop."

For more information on Erickson's restaurants, visit the Sea Creatures website.