Dammed to Extinction

Directors:  Steven Hawley and Michael Peterson

For eons Southern Resident killer whales have hunted chinook salmon along the Pacific Coast. For the last 40 years, renowned whale scientist and San Juan Island resident Ken Balcomb has closely observed them.

He’s familiar with a deadly pattern. Salmon numbers plummet. Orcas starve. The downward spiral compelled him to realize that studying whales was no longer enough. He needed to act. The orcas need roughly a million salmon a year, but where to find a million fish? The solution is getting rid of four fish-killing dams 500 miles away, on the largest tributary to what was, until it was dammed in the last century, the largest chinook-producing river on earth. Studying whales is science.

Removing dams is politics. Defiantly mixing the two has become the most important work of Balcomb’s career. Meanwhile, the race to extinction for salmon and orcas speeds up, nipping at the heels of the plodding, clumsy pace of political change in the Pacific Northwest, where dams and hydropower are king.

Released in 2019
48 minutes
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protecting the southern resident killer
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