Fishermen are on the front line when it comes to the impacts of climate change. An ongoing project by The Nature Conservancy in Alaska is giving voice to what fishermen are experiencing in a project called Tidal Change.org. Here’s a sampler –

Melanie Brown of Juneau  is a longtime setnetter at Bristol Bay.

“Since I’ve been fishing I’ve noticed a lot of environmental changes. The rivers don’t freeze anymore and those ice floes aren’t there to protect the bluff above where our site is. It just keeps coming down, it’s starting to fill in my site so my site goes drier more quickly and I have less fishing time. I’ve never been a climate change denier, but it’s daunting. I’ve been really focused on trying to find hope. It’s all that keeps me going. I have to remain hopeful for my children.”

 Bob Snell has fished the Washington and Oregon coasts since 1971.

“The last 35 years I’ve noticed the ocean warming in the places where the salmon have to go, especially where they have to navigate up coastal streams that have been warmed. It is difficult for them to get up to their spawning grounds and for the fish to survive after they’ve laid their eggs in the warm water. I feel like the planet has provided me with a rich and healthy live and I’d like others to have that same opportunity”.

Adrienne Wilber of Sitka has been fishing since she was 11-

“My favorite fishermen, the ones I grew up most respecting and still do, consider themselves stewards of their industry. They are not out there trying to catch the last fish or trying to out fish everyone else because they are fishermen not just because they love catching fish, but they love everything that comes with that lifestyle – being able to go out on your boat, being your own boss, living in  small communities, and they don’t want to think that climate change is going to take that opportunity away from their children or the other people in their community. Folks are really concerned about climate change.”

Eugene Anderson is from Chignik -.

“Most fishermen agree that something is not right. I’ve noticed over the past years since the waters have warmed up that the fish change – they blush earlier and they get red and by the first week of August you start getting fish in the river back and they are all red and the salmon are smaller, probably because the water temperature has gone up a lot more. When the water is warmer the feed is not as prolific. Sometimes we have water temperatures as high as 60 degrees. The young people really have to think about what’s going on. With this climate change it’s very uncertain time. It’s kind of scary.”

.Larry Vander Lind – lives in Oregon – fished in Kodiak and Bristol bay.

“In my time in Bristol Bay we’ve had outbreaks of warm water going from north to south and we see more algae blooms in the water and more jellyfish. Any kind of sudden change you think of how hapless we are, I’m speaking of every critter now, how vulnerable we are.”

Peter Andrew of Dillingham has fished for 45 years.

“I know that scientists speak about water temperature being a very key part of the survival of sockeye and other salmon species and that’s really alarming to me. I’ve seen the water temperature go up and it scares me. Bristol Bay is an absolute wonderful place to be. It is the last place on earth – it’s going to take some good stewardship and policy makers to make sure this fishery stays as it has been for the last 10,000 years”.

Jon Gaedke has trolled for salmon in Southeast for 26 years –

“This global warming – I don’t care what people say, there is global warming. It’s changing things.   People look at me like I’m a nut. But the salmon are confused. The patterns they have followed for years and years, they don’t seem to know which way to go or where to go or when to go. That’s pretty scary business.”

Find The Nature Conservancy’s Tidal Change.org voices online and on social media. 

 

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