Glacier Retreat Affects Salmon Fisheries

Published on July 19th, 2012 | by


As global temperatures rise, glaciers retreat, affecting the landscape and wildlife around them. Salmon depend on the glaciers to maintain their habitat. Without it, salmon and the people who depend on them for their livelihood may be in trouble.

Salmon need cool temperatures to swim in and spawn. Adult salmon will die in waters over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Glaciers melting each year fill the streams with water and keep them cool at the same time. If glaciers melt too much, there won’t be enough spring melt to keep the salmon happy.

Glaciers are melting in the Pacific Northwest, putting the salmon fisheries at risk. The video shows a time lapse of the retreating South Cascade Glacier in Washington.

Salmon have already been severely affected by overfishing. The current run size in areas of the Pacific Northwest is 1.7% – 7.0% of the historic run size. Warmer waters might reduce the population beyond recovery.

There might be hope. Salmon seem to be migrating earlier each year in order to take advantage of cooler waters. Researchers in Alaska have found evidence of genetic change in populations of pink salmon.

Life is resilient, but can the salmon change fast enough to save themselves and the fisheries?

Glacier photo via Shutterstock

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