Fishermen are closest to the changes brought by an off kilter climate and talking about it is a first step in finding solutions. That’s the thought behind The Nature Conservancy’s second collection of audio stories in its Tidal Change series.
Spokesman Dustin Solberg of Cordova –
“If we are not talking about the problems or the challenges ahead, we’re certainly not going to start tackling them. So this is a chance to generate conversation.”
The stories reveal a swirl of emotions. Here’s a sampler:
“The environment is changing, undoubtedly. When I first fished there was a lot of ice and now most of the glaciers are all receding.”
Leonard Leach of Ketchikan has been fishing since 1961.
“This summer was the weirdest of all. It was sun shining the whole summer. If this whole warming trend keeps happening and the ocean starts warming even a few more degrees, my understanding is that jellyfish really come back. They thrive in warmer water and that would be a real detriment to our gillnetting and seining.”
Lia Cook fishes at Bristol Bay with her family and worries about the warmer water.
And so the water’s warmer and the fish get confused and they don’t know when they’re supposed to run and it really affects the peak and the amount of fish that comes through because there is that confusion in the school of when are we supposed to go and spawn and do all these things.”
Climate change is the biggest concern of Bob Eder, a 45 year veteran fishing Dungeness crab in Oregon.
“I’m a Dungeness crabber and we’ve already seen effects in that fishery. Warm water produces more algae harmful algae blooms. It’s not something that’s coming, it’s something that we have been experiencing. In our industry there are people of all different political leanings but I don’t think I know any fishermen who don’t recognize climate change and the challenges coming. We are experiencing it.”
Lauri Rootvik of Dillingham speaks to the odd run timing at Bristol Bay.
“Back when I was a child it was the 4th of July run and it was pretty predictable and it’s not predictably the 4th of July anymore. It hasn’t been for quite a few years.”
Frances Leach of Juneau also grew up fishing. Drawing water to chill the fish gave her a first clue to a changing climate.
“I think the first time I really noticed change was in the 1990’s when we used to draw water for saltwater refrigeration and you’d have to chill it down to 32 degrees. We would draw water and it was already 62 or 63 degrees. And that was scary because you don’t expect the water to be that warm. We used to just talk about bad prices or good or bad fishing or whatever. The salty old fishermen who used to just go out there and slay fish are starting to recognize that things are changing and if we don’t start to do something about it, we’re going to have a serious problem on our hands. And I’ll admit I’m scared. The salmon have been disappearing all over our world and within our lifetime. But I still have faith in humans that we can turn things around.”
Katrina Leary grew up at a fishing camp along the Kuskokwim River and called it magical.
“It’s really emotional, when you realize your livelihood is being threatened and you realize kids might not be able to do this, fishing really is our life. I couldn’t’ imagine a summer without fishing and I hope I never have to.”
Find links to more stories at www.tidalchange.org