Anglers in Hot Water as Fish Species Fail to Warm Up to Climate Change

Many fish species and aquatic systems throughout North America are already showing the effects of climate change

12-17-2003 // Christine Dorsey

You're a hard-core angler. Winter means one thing to you: ice fishing. You've got your tip-up, you've got your lures, you've got your crampons and other winter gear and you've got great ice. But what if your lake had no ice-or worse-what if it had no fish!

This scenario could be possible sooner than you think if global warming trends are allowed to continue as they have been, according to findings discussed at a recent symposium in Seattle, sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).

"The sense of urgency anglers feel about the potential loss of their sport is astounding," says NWF's Patty Glick, organizer of the symposium.

Is Your Favorite Catch at Risk?

Many fish species and aquatic systems throughout North America are already showing the effects of climate change. For instance, cool and cold-water fish, such as walleye and trout are being pushed farther northward into Canada in search of cooler waters. Brook and rainbow trout could lose all of their viable habitat in the Great Lakes region. And speaking of the Great Lakes, warming there is likely to cause a seasonal decline in algae, an important food source for fish, and could make the lakes more hospitable to invasive exotic species such as round gobies. Warmer sea temperatures in the Bering Sea near Alaska have contributed to a reduction in herring populations.

The problem is really exacerbated in the Northwest states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, where cold-water fish species such as trout, salmon and steelhead are in grave danger of habitat loss due to global warming. In fact, trout and salmon species could see a 34 percent reduction in viable habitat by the middle of this century, according to information released at the symposium.

Americans Want Action

In October, NWF commissioned a Zogby International poll and discovered that a whopping 79 percent of Americans believe the United States should curb its greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide that contribute to global warming.

"The Zogby poll proves what we sensed all along, that the vast majority of the American people are way ahead of the politicians when it comes to understanding global warming as a real threat," says Jeremy Symons, Climate Change and Wildlife Program Manager for NWF.

The Tide is Turning

The sporting community will be essential in building the groundswell of support necessary to make real headway to address global climate change," Jim Martin, NWF Board Member and Conservation Director for Pure Fishing (Berkley, Fenwick, Abu Garcia and others) told anglers at the symposium.

And Jim is right-on October 30, the Senate made positive first steps with a historic vote on the Climate Stewardship Act, sponsored by Sens. John McCain, (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman, (D-CT). Although the bill failed to pass, for the first time in history, 43 senators cast affirmative votes to begin imposing mandatory requirements on industries to restrict greenhouse gas emissions.

"When hunters and anglers begin to understand that global warming is impacting the habitat of the fish and animals they care so much about, they can't help but want to do something to help stop it," says Paula Del Giudice, a 23-year member of the Outdoor Writers' Association of America currently serving on the National Affairs and Environment Committee and Center Director for NWF's Northwestern Natural Resource Center.

Contact NWF's Christine Dorsey at 202-797-6806 or if you would like us to put you in touch with policy, scientific or legal experts to help you bring your readers the latest news on climate change.