The effects of climate change represent multiple risks to native fish in the Pacific Northwest. Increased temperatures increase a fish’s metabolism and can reduce their ability to survive and reproduce. Reduced snowpack and other changes to precipitation patterns can alter the timing and magnitude of river flows. Changes to river flows can in turn change the timing of spawning migrations, or simply reduce the water available for migrating fish. In the most extreme cases, flows can be reduced to the point that rivers and streams become disconnected series of pools that do not allow for any migration to take place. Visit our “Heat” the Fifth ‘H’” page for more background on how climate change can affect native fish.
Native Fish Society is actively engaging with the climate change threat. Our current projects to take on climate change include:
- Working with ODFW to establish angling regulations that take climate change into account. ODFW is looking to become a national leader in developing climate-based fisheries management strategies that protect fish while also providing angling opportunities. We support ODFW’s efforts and are specifically encouraging them to adopt:
- Low flow and temperature-based angling closures;
- Protections of cold water refugia; and
- Selective gear regulations.
- Advocating for the adoption of non-native fish policies that favor native fish. Historically, ODFW’s approach to the management of non-native fish prioritized angling opportunities above all else. As a result, we have seen massive losses of juvenile salmonids to invasive fish species, such as largemouth bass, in large rivers with increasing water temperatures. We are pushing for regulations that will immediately increase angling opportunities and lead to less pressure on native fish in the long-term.
- Champion proactive fishery regulations during poor ocean conditions in the Rogue South Coast/Coastal Multi-Species Conservation and Management Plans. Adaptive management is a key component of both the existing Coastal Multi-Species and the proposed Rogue South Coast Conservation and Management Plans developed by ODFW. We are advocating for the inclusion of freshwater fishery regulations to respond to poor ocean conditions as a vital component of ODFW’s adaptive management strategy. Salmon and steelhead are generally most affected by poor ocean conditions during their first year in the marine environment, so freshwater fishery regulations would need to take that into account. This means that freshwater fishery regulations may lag 1-4 years after poor ocean conditions, depending on the target species of the fishery. If adopted, we would assist in sharing this information with anglers and communicating why some of these management strategies are necessary.
- Promote the adoption of climate reforms to hatchery releases. Research has shown that hatchery-raised fish perform worse than wild fish when there are poor ocean conditions. A changing climate will increase the frequency of years with poor ocean conditions, and will likely increase competition in freshwater habitat. In addition, hatcheries are a source of greenhouse emissions. As a result, it is more important than ever that hatcheries are closed and wild fish are allowed a fighting chance against a changing climate.
- Build relationships with climate change groups. It will take a large-scale international effort to effectively tackle climate change. As a result, we are looking to build partnerships with groups who are already showing success in their climate change advocacy efforts at the national and international levels. Our goal is to support the large-scale efforts of groups such as Sunrise Movement, while staying true to our mission to support wild, native fish, their habitats, and the people who rely on them.
- Champion Climate Change Policies that Promote Equity. The impacts of climate change are already being disproportionately felt by communities of color and people living in the Global South. We support solutions that assist these communities and lead to their resiliency. We believe that solutions to climate change should uplift communities of color and increase equity in access to healthy living and recreational spaces.
- Form a Climate Change River Steward/Fellows Working Group. This group will be leaders and advocates for our policy priorities outlined above. They will also work to identify additional areas for Native Fish Society to engage with climate change work that falls within our established mission. In addition, they will reach out to established climate change organizations and find ways for our groups to support one another’s missions. If you are interested in joining this team, please contact Liz Perkin, Northern Oregon Regional Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org