Climate Change May End a Favorite Summer Activity: Fishing

Eliza Gray Universal /
fly fishing declining population
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For generations, fishing has been a summer staple for millions of outdoor enthusiasts across America. But experts and activists have ramped up efforts to warn fishing lovers that their beloved pastime is under serious threat.

northwest fishing population decline
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The fishing community in northwestern America in particular has felt the change in the air and in the water as climate change has dramatically impacted their season. For frequent visitors of the Middle Fork stretch of the Flathead River in Montana, the summer was once known as a time when the river would be rushing with icy water from the nearby Glacier National Park - but things haven't been the same for a few summers now. According to Hilary Hutcheson, a local fly-fishing guide and activist, the river and the fish have suffered from increasingly warmer winters. The lack of glacier melt has cut down on the native fish population, and fishing enthusiasts have begun to take notice.

In fact, according to National Geographic, river levels were so low this summer that neighboring regions restricted, and in some cases even prohibited, fly-fishing altogether. Preservation committees in Idaho and Montana were just some of the areas that took action this summer. And while the actions were deemed necessary, they severely impacted the areas' livelihood for the summer. Many of these regions rely on the seasonal tourism of summer fly-fishing, in addition to commercial fishing for domestic and international exports. Estimated missed revenue in the northwestern States alone reached up to $30 million.

climate change impacting fishing
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Hutcheson also spoke on another rising concern in the waterways of Montana: competing fish populations. Recently introduced fish species have started mating with the local trout, resulting in hybridized offspring and a decline in the native population. Thankfully, passionate activists like Hilary have dedicated their lives to educating hobbyists and seasoned fly-fishers alike about the concerning reality of climate change. And she and many others warn that change is needed on every level to save the waters and the fish that inhabit them. "You have a role in this," the activist encouraged. "We can't just expect someone else to do it."

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