The 6th H of salmon abundance: Heat

The clipping below is from a Daily Astorian article on an EPA report regarding global warming’s potential influence on Northwest salmon.  Of most import for killer whale conservationists are the implications of what James Martin calls a “perfect storm” for salmon: low snow pack with low, warm flows in the summer.
Martin provides a nice quote regarding the economic impact of such a storm:
“In Oregon, Washington and Idaho, it’s a 35,000-job industry, and it’s worth $3 billion dollars per year,” he said. “So it’s a lot more than just a hobby. There’s a lot at stake.”
That’s about 30x the $100M estimate of ecotourism value associated  with the southern residents.
The article also mentions a report co-authored by Martin and Patty Glick called A Great Wave Rising. Dan Drais of Save Our Wild Salmon recently handed me a copy and it looks like an admirable, balanced attempt to bring climate science into the on-going struggle to devise a legal federal plan for recovering endangered fish in the Columbia/Snake basin.  I particularly like that it is rich in reputable citations with which I (and global warming skeptics) can understand the uncertainties in the trends and projections.
A quote from Glick suggests that “Heat” should be added to the 4 H’s that govern northwest salmon abundance: harvest, hatcheries, hydropower, and habitat.  But just last night, David Montogomery claimed the 5th H should be “History” — the history of salmon-human interactions, particularly in Britain and in the Northeast U.S.  So, for me “Heat” has become the 6th H and I’m even more convinced that salmon recovery (linked with killer whale recovery) is one of the most complex, grand environmental challenges of our time.
clipped from

12/26/2008 11:21:00 AM
The EPA warns that climate change threatens Oregon’s cold-water fish populations
By Michael Burkett
East Oregonian Publishing Group
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s report on global warming
contains some dire predictions for Oregon’s time-honored reputation as a Mecca for coldwater fishermen.
Released July 17, the report warns that the time may come when salmon- and trout-fishing trips are no longer much of an option for residents or visitors. EPA scientists further caution that warming temperatures could lead to a 50- to 100-percent decline in Chinook salmon returns in some areas, since salmon require cool water and are extremely sensitive to increasing temperatures.

Once Oregon is hit by a perfect storm comprised of “a little less snow pack, lower summer water flows and higher summer temperatures, bam! We’ll go over a threshold, and suddenly we won’t have salmon or steelhead or trout,” Martin said.
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One Response to The 6th H of salmon abundance: Heat

  1. Martin and Montgomery are smart guys. MacArthur Genius Montgomery wrote a great book about the history of salmon – not just in the NW, but in Europe and on the east coast – called King of Fish. It’s a great (if sad) read. You can see from it why he believes History is the fifth H.

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