The Adirondack Park’s trout and salmon fishing would likely disappear by 2100 without global action to counteract climate warming according to a new report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA’s study concludes global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would save 70 percent of Adirondack trout and salmon from extinction. The EPA report also predicts widespread damage to other cold-water fisheries, public health, clean water, electricity grids, roads and bridges, forestry, agriculture and coastal communities.
The EPA’s report is titled Climate Change in the U.S.: Benefits of Global Action is a summary of the Climate Change Impacts and Risks Analysis (CIRA) project, a peer-reviewed study. It compares impacts in a future with significant global action on climate change to a future in which current greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.
“This report is shocking. Its map of trout and salmon habitat in the year 2100 shows a big blank space over the entire Adirondack Park,” William C. Janeway, Executive Director of Adirondack Council said in a statement sent to the press. “Without immediate action to curb the warming climate, EPA is predicting that all Adirondack trout and salmon populations will be dead within 85 years. A change like that would fundamentally alter the nature of this park, its water, wildlife and the economy of the communities. The Adirondack Park would never be the same again.”
“That means all of New York’s trout and salmon will die. This is just one of the drastic and terrible changes our children and grandchildren would inherit from us if we do nothing,” Janeway said. “That would be a shameful legacy. We ought to be doing everything we can to avoid such a fate. We should start today.”
Janeway noted that many Adirondack trout and salmon populations are genetically unique and valuable to the entire web of life in the park. They are food for loons and other iconic wildlife, while also serving as a top predator in the waters they inhabit. Their loss would unravel the park’s web of life.
“In terms of people, the loss of our trout and salmon would strike a horrendous blow to the Adirondack Park’s tourism economy,” he said. “The bass and sunfish that would replace trout and salmon are fun to catch, but they live almost everywhere. People will not drive hundreds of miles through the mountains to angle for the same fish that swim back home.” Estimates of losses to communities that host trout or salmon waters run as high as $1.5 billion per year nationwide.
Acid rain has already taken a toll on the park’s fish, but recent, hard-won pollution reductions have had a positive impact Janeway said, adding that unbridled climate change would wipe out recent progress.
EPA’s report states:
Freshwater Fish: All trout and salmon habitat from Tennessee to New England would be too warm to support native fish by 2100 without global action to curb greenhouse gases (GHG). With action to curb greenhouse gas could preserve trout in the Adirondacks approximately 70 percent of habitat for cold-water fish species that would otherwise be lost by the end of the century.
- Warming waters and changes in stream flow from climate change will alter the distribution of freshwater fisheries across the country. Without global GHG mitigation, cold-water species are projected to be replaced in many areas by less economically valuable fisheries over the course of the 21st century, especially in the Mountain West and Appalachia (including Catskill Park, Adirondack Park).
- Habitat suitable for cold-water fisheries is estimated to decline nationally by approximately 62 percent through 2100 under the Reference, but by only 12 percent under the Mitigation scenario. Global GHG mitigation is projected to preserve cold-water habitat in most of Appalachia and the Mountain West.
- GHG mitigation avoids an estimated $380 million to $1.5 billion in total recreational fishing damages through 2100 compared to the Reference (discounted at 3 percent).
The report’s map shows that, without global action, there would be no trout habitat left in New York, or anywhere in the Northeast, except for a patch at the junction of the borders of New Hampshire, Maine and Quebec. See the map online at:
Mike Lynch recently reported on the threats climate change poses to Adirondack trout. This month, Adirondack Explorer magazine will launch a series about climate change in the Adirondack region. “Climate Matters” will run over five issues of the Explorer and be posted here on Adirondack Almanack.
All the Adirondack Almanack’s coverage of climate change can be found here.
The EPA’s rClimate Change in the U.S.: Benefits of Global Action report can be found online here.
Photo of man fly fishing on the Ausable River in Wilmington by John Warren.