Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Record Warm Gulf of Alaska Likely to Impact Upcoming Salmon Returns. Highlights Need for Action on Climate Change

This summer temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska, the primary feeding grounds for many of the West Coast's salmon populations, have reached record high temperatures, and fisheries and climate scientists are warning that conditions in the Pacific Ocean this summer will likely severely impact survival of juvenile salmon going to sea this year and possibly next. Warm water in the ocean is often associated with stratification, layering of ocean waters, which results in low productivity in the surface waters of the Northern Pacific, producing lower growth and ultimately lower survival for juvenile salmon which enter the ocean in years of warmer than usual water. 

With water temperatures breaking previous records by 2 degrees Celsius in the Gulf of Alaska this summer, salmon returns in the coming years may provide a snapshot of what the future holds for salmon stocks across our region if we are unable to control and reduce climate warming emissions of greenhouse gases. Scientists and managers are already working hard to understand and mitigate the impacts of climate warming on the freshwater portion of salmon's habitat, however irreparable damage to the productivity of the North Pacific may undermine any attempts to recover or manage salmon populations in our region. 

Given the threat posed to the ocean ecosystem's ability to support salmon by climate change, advocates for wild salmon and steelhead must take climate change head on, making decisions within our own lives that reduce our impacts on the global climate, and calling for accountability from our business and political leaders. Over the past few years we have begun to see progress on pressing issues of hatchery reform, harvest management, and the operation of dams on the Columbia. While these are positive and encouraging steps, we need action to protect the North Pacific from ongoing climate change. Without action on climate change, the next few years may provide a chilling preview future ocean conditions and their impact on wild salmon around the region. 

More information from the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

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