According to a new study by the Florida Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation: “Many of Florida’s coastal bays and estuaries will be inundated by 2100 due to sea-level rise from global warming, making the “Fishing Capital of the World” uninhabitable by some of Florida’s most prized game fish” “Fishing as we know it could disappear in a matter of decades,” said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation. “Our coastal habitats are shrinking and if we lose our coastal fisheries to rising seas, the effect on fish and wildlife Floridians have worked so hard to protect will be devastating.”
The study found that nearly 50% of critical salt marshes and 84% of tidal flats could be lost.
The area of dry land is projected to decrease by 14% and roughly 30 percent of ocean beaches and 66% of estuarine beaches could disappear.
In addition, global warming is expected to lead to an increase in marine diseases, harmful algal blooms, more-extreme rainfall patterns and stronger hurricanes, all of which would have a significant impact on the state’s prime fisheries.
“Fishing is a way of life in Florida,” said Fuller. “Not only is it a wonderful pastime, it’s an economic boom to the state.” According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, in 2005 anglers spent $3.3 billion on saltwater recreational fishing in Florida, supporting nearly 60,000 jobs.
“Florida’s game fish are on the front line,” said Patty Glick, global warming specialist for the National Wildlife Federation. “As sea level rises, fish species that need the protection of salt marshes and tidal flats during their early larval or juvenile stages will be most vulnerable.”
Scientists agree that a significant increase in the rate of sea-level rise due to melting glaciers and ice caps and the thermal expansion of the oceans is one of the most direct consequences of global warming.
From 3,000 years ago to the start of the 19th century sea level was almost constant, rising at 0.1 to 0.2 mm/yr. Since 1900 the level has risen at 1 to 2 mm/yr; since 1992 satellite altimetry from TOPEX/Poseidon indicates a rate of rise about 3 mm/yr.
Cartographers of the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the world have redrawn coastlines and land types following inundation of coastal areas due to rising sea levels as a result of global warming.
Since the atlas was last published four years ago, sea levels have lowered in some cases and risen in others, while ice caps have shrunk and lakes have almost disappeared.
The atlas’s editor-in-chief, Mick Ashworth, said: “We can literally see environmental disasters unfolding before our eyes. We have a real fear that in the near future famous geographical features will disappear forever”.
Warming waters, especially in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, are producing more equatorial rain, heating the atmosphere and changing wind patterns over the North Atlantic and North Pacific. Resulting changes in circulation have warmed land surfaces and shifted storm tracks farther north.
The rise in the ambient temperature of the water is causing stress on species that are at or near their physiological limit. Certain species, unable to adapt to a warmer temperature will be forced to stay and die; some will migrate to other areas with more favourable conditions. We may already be seeing examples of this as several warm water species have begun to migrate well beyond their geographical range.
As the surrounding water warms up, fish metabolism speeds up. They digest food more rapidly, grow more quickly, and have more energy to reproduce. But fish need more food and more oxygen to support this higher metabolism. Fish may not have enough oxygen to breathe as the water grows warmer. Fish filter oxygen from the water they are swimming in, but the amount of oxygen dissolved in water decreases as temperatures rise. So many fish will experience an “oxygen squeeze” as the climate warms.
Warmer fish also tend to mature more quickly, but the cost of this speedy lifestyle is often a smaller body size. Ninety percent of aquatic animals raised in warm water end up smaller than their peers raised at cooler temperatures. Many fish will also have less offspring as temperatures rise, and some may not be able to reproduce at all. (WWF; are we putting our fish in hot water?)
According to David Welch Ph.D, Fisheries and Oceans Canada: “The eastern Pacific may begin to lose its salmon range within 20-30 years. Metabolically drained by hotter water, they would return with less stored energy for their final upstream run. They would have less capacity to stand the increasingly harsh stream conditions. They would also lay fewer eggs, further diminishing odds for survival.”
Welch notes. “We’re seeing sharp declines in salmon survival, with fat reserves down by as much as 20 percent in the Sockeye run. The climatic changes are consistent with the early stages of global warming. The response of our salmon populations is not at all encouraging…other cold-blooded organisms may also express similar distributional responses to temperature that have so far gone unnoticed…”
Unusual catches of mahi-mahi, marlin, barracuda, tropical lizard fish, species that usually stay far to the south, have been caught of Oregon and Washington. Commercial fishermen in Newport have been selling albacore tuna, instead of the usual salmon.
Global warming must now be considered as another factor affecting Recreational Sportfishing and the Fishing Tackle Trade and be added to the fact that 52% of the marine stocks are fully exploited, with no room for further expansion and 25% of the stocks are either overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion owing to excess fishing pressure exerted in the past. (FAO, Status of fishery resources-Marine fisheries.)
To quote Elizabeth Kolbert of the New Yorker: “It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.”