One of the West Coast’s most iconic species feeling the heat
California’s outdoors industry — wildlife watching, hunting, and fishing — is an $8.2 billion-a-year business. That’s roughly equivalent to the GDP of Cambodia.
So imagine the shock waves sent by the state’s first salmon shutdown:
Salmon fishing was banned along the West Coast for the first time in 160 years Thursday, a decision that is expected to have a devastating economic impact on fishermen, dozens of businesses, tourism and boating.
Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez immediately declared a commercial fishery disaster, opening the door for Congress to appropriate money for anyone who will be economically harmed.
Unfortunately, the forecast for salmon doesn’t get much better from there, according to a new report released Thursday by the National Wildlife Federation and Planning and Conservation League Foundation. With salmon habitat already decimated by dams, climate change now threatens to warm their remaining cold water spawning grounds.
What can be done to reverse the trend?
- Develop comprehensive and aggressive greenhouse gas reduction policies that steadily cut global warming pollution 2 percent per year to meet an 80 percent reduction goal by mid-century that scientists say is necessary to avoid the most damaging effects of climate change;
- Include all major sources of global warming pollution: electric power companies, factories, and the transportation sector (the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California);
- Ensure polluters pay to pollute, with some of the revenue generated dedicated to fund programs to protect California’s critical natural resources, invest in clean technology, and mitigate impacts on low-income communities;
- Create a new water management regime for California that benefits people, fish, and wildlife; and
- Help wildlife survive impacts now considered inevitable due to past and current global warming pollution.
“The unprecedented closure of the salmon fishing season is just the tip of a melting iceberg,” said National Wildlife Federation president and CEO Larry Schweiger. “More than 10 million people in California are wildlife watchers or sportsmen. The global warming issue cuts across all income levels, all political boundaries, and all religious beliefs. If you like to hunt, fish or watch wildlife, you’re affected.”
“Most of California’s ecosystems are already fragile, having withstood years of pressure from human activities. Without decisive action, global warming could push them over the edge,” said the Planning and Conservation League Foundation’s Matt Vander Sluis. “The single most important conservation action we can take is to quickly reverse the growth of global warming pollution.”