Helena, MT (July 23, 2008) – Rivers and streams across the West are getting hotter and drier, making it increasingly difficult for trout to feed and spawn, according to a new report by fishing and conservation groups. The report says global warming is shrinking cold-water habitat, threatening the survival of trout and a billion dollar recreational fishing industry.
The states particularly at risk include Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.
“Hotter temperatures are shutting down our most popular streams during the height of the fishing season,” said Bruce Farling, executive director of Montana Trout Unlimited (MTU). “The closures are becoming an annual event when trout are stressed by warm water and low flows. The implications of our shifting climate are clear: fewer trout and fewer opportunities to fish.”
The report found that loss of habitat is resulting in fewer opportunities for anglers to enjoy sportfishing and could cause more serious economic losses for those who depend on the fishing, recreation, and tourism industries for their livelihoods. In Colorado, sportfishing in 2002 contributed $800 million to the state’s economy and supported nearly 11,000 jobs. In Montana, angling generates $300 million annually.
Scientists project that for trout and other cold-water aquatic species, a nearly five degree Fahrenheit temperature increase could reduce trout habitat throughout the Rocky Mountain region by 50 percent or more by the end of the century.
“Trout are one of the best indicators of healthy river ecosystems; they’re the aquatic version of the canary in the coalmine,” said Theo Spencer, senior advocate for NRDC’s climate center. “Trout populations across the West are suffering from a hotter, drier climate. This is our wake up call that urgent action is needed today to reduce heat-trapping pollution that causes global warming.”
Spencer said it is not too late to protect trout fisheries. He called for solutions including enacting federal and local climate change legislation, using water more efficiently, and limiting logging and road building near trout streams to ensure enough shade to maintain cooler water temperatures.