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Pacific Salmon Named One of “America’s Hottest Species”
Pacific salmon have been named one of America’s top ten endangered wildlife, birds, fish and plant species impacted by global warming, in a new report released today by the Endangered Species Coalition (ESC).
December 1, 2009
For More Information Contact:
Glen Spain, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations: 541-689-2000
Mark Rockwell, Endangered Species Coalition, California: 530 432-0100
Jon Hunter, Endangered Species Coalition, Washington D.C.: 202-476-0669
Pacific Salmon Named One of “America’s Hottest Species”
Global Warming Impacts on Endangered Species Focus of New Report
San Francisco, CA – Pacific salmon have been named one of America’s top ten endangered wildlife, birds, fish and plant species impacted by global warming, in a new report released today by the Endangered Species Coalition (ESC).
The new report, America’s Hottest Species, demonstrates ways that our changing climate is increasing the risk of extinction for eleven species around our country on the brink of disappearing forever. Pacific salmon, which is really a mix of several closely related species including coho and chinook salmon, face decreasing rainfall, warming waters and changing hydrology throughout most of the west coast – impacts that are clearly related to global climate change and are already being documented throughout the region.
“Global warming is like a bulldozer shoving species, already on the brink of extinction, perilously closer to the edge of existence,” said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, based in Washington, DC. “Polar bears, lynx, salmon, coral and many other endangered species are already feeling the heat. The species in this report are representative of all imperiled wildlife, plants and fish that are now facing an additional compounding threat to their survival and why we need to take action today to protect them.”
Pacific Salmon In Need
Many sub-species of Pacific salmon are already so close to extinction that they are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Global warming impacts will just add to the serious stresses that these damaged salmon runs already face because of dewatering of key rivers (such as in the California Central Valley), water quality problems created by poorly conceived dams (such as in the Klamath and Columbia River basin) and multiple losses of spawning and rearing habitat in increasingly industrialized western watersheds.
In the California Central Valley, for instance, record and near-record amounts of water were allowed to be sucked out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Rivers between 2003 and 2007 by state and federal irrigation agencies. This resulted in a widespread San Francisco Bay Delta ecosystem collapse that killed most of the 2005 and 2006 out-migrating juvenile salmon populations in those years. This major juvenile salmon loss later triggered widespread commercial ocean salmon fishing closures in 2008 and 2009 that put thousands of coastal commercial fishermen and their families out of work, costing several hundred million dollars in economic losses.
Near total California and Oregon ocean commercial salmon fishing shutdowns also occurred in 2006, driven by similar ecosystem collapses in the Klamath River in 2002. The collapse was triggered by excessive water diversions as well as poor water quality conditions created by four obsolete hydropower dams. Dams in the Columbia Basin’s Snake River also contribute greatly to poor water quality, which in turn triggers salmon losses in that river, curtailing the ability of fishermen to harvest salmon throughout the Pacific Northwest and well into Southeast Alaska.
On top of these existing problems, over the last 30 years all these major west coast river basins have experienced reduced rainfall, or reduced winter snow packs, or both. These hydrological changes are considered by climate researchers to be a “fingerprint” of global climate shifts that are consistent with global warming model predictions. Unless global warming is checked, all models indicate that the Western U.S. will be a much hotter and dryer place in the future than it has been in the past.
“Global warming is expected to hit the already warm and dry western U.S. very hard,” commented Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), the west coast’s largest trade association for commercial fishing families, most of whose members depend on salmon harvests for a large part of their livelihoods. “The science shows that these changes have already begun, and are already affecting our region’s valuable salmon runs. Averting this looming disaster should be one of our nation’s highest priorities.”
“Salmon and the other species listed in the Top 10 report know climate change is real, and here today,” says Dr. Mark Rockwell, the California representative of the Endangered Species Coalition. “After three consecutive years of drought, Californians are beginning to realize how precious water really is, and how the demands for it are likely to increase, leaving salmon and other species closer to extinction.” Dr. Rockwell also reminds us all about what is needed. “This coming year, 2010, will give us an opportunity to make a difference to help the many species being impacted by climate change. The U.S. Congress will continue debating climate change legislation, and we need to tell our House and Senate members how important it is to pass a bill consistent with science recommendations on emissions and provide funding to help fish and wildlife. We can no longer wait to make the tough decisions. Salmon and the others are telling us, now is the time to act.”
About the ESC Report
The new report focuses on ten species, as well as an online poll winner (the polar bear), that are listed or being reviewed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The global warming threats to these species include increased disease, diminished reproduction, lost habitat, reduced food supply, and other impacts.
The highlighted species are:
1. Kaua’i Creeper or Akikiki
2. Elkhorn Coral
3. Bull Trout
4. Canada Lynx
5. Pacific Salmon
6. Leatherback Sea Turtle
7. Grizzly Bear
8. Bog Turtle
9. Western Prairie Fringed Orchid
10. Flatwoods Salamander
Activists’ Choice #11: Arctic Polar Bear
Safeguarding Species in a Warming World
“To help protect and restore endangered species, our nation must address the impacts global warming is already having and clean up the sources of global warming pollution,” said Huta. America’s Hottest Species calls for action from both Congress and the Obama Administration.
The full report, which includes information on each species and initial solutions, is available online at http://www.StopExtinction.org.