Fly Fishers International is a global organization dedicated to the support, enhancement and protection of the recreational opportunities and enjoyment of fishing with the artificial fly. We do this through teaching all aspects of fly fishing and most importantly through our advocacy, demonstration and voice for conservation of our natural resources. Clearly, conservation of fishes and their habitats is fundamental to our opportunities today and those of future generations.
This commitment to conservation of “All Fish, All Waters” requires that Fly Fishers International recognize and examine the impact of climate change on fishes, their freshwater and marine habitats and the wetlands and estuaries that support and nourish those habitats.
Fly Fishers International policy on Public Lands and Waters of the United States reinforces this commitment as it says, in part, these habitats “…collectively are much more valuable than simply as wetlands, watersheds and fish habitat. These are the habitats of a vast array of wildlife, plant and insect species, including those that may be threatened or endangered with extinction across our country. What must not be forgotten is that these very landscapes of minerals, waters and plants are essential to our own quality of life as human habitat. These are the landscapes that grow the plant communities that produce the clean air we breathe and process carbon dioxide into oxygen. The wetlands that clean and recharge our sources of fresh water are necessary to our lives. There is no question that these lands must be protected for our recreational interests and our own quality of life as humans.”1
Our knowledge and understanding of climate change and its causes and effects on the natural world continue to evolve. This is the nature of scientific inquiry. However, there is now clear consensus within the scientific community that climate change is real, change is occurring at rates that exceed those of history, and human-caused carbon emissions into the atmosphere are contributing to this accelerated rate of global climate change.2
Climate change has always been a part of the evolution of our natural world, but natural rates of change occurred in magnitudes of geologic time. It is now recognized conclusively that the earth’s climate is warming at rates that can be measured from one decade to another. It further is understood that this warming is being accelerated by human activities; particularly significant increases in carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse gases.3
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration reports that the impact of climate change and warming is seen in rising temperatures across the globe, the warming of the world’s oceans, the shrinking of the polar ice sheets and glaciers, decreased snow cover, rising sea levels, increasing frequency of extreme weather events and ocean acidification, among others.4
These and other “…cascading effects…” of climate change are “…affecting our natural resources, fish and wildlife and outdoor opportunities…” according to a 2012 Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership report.5 Similar findings were reported with modeled projections and solutions during a Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Policy Climate Council in February, 2020.6 It is beyond the scope of this policy statement to enumerate all those factors but some examples that should be of particular concern to fly fishers follow.
The effects of unchecked climate change on freshwater fishes, particularly cold water fish, will be dramatic. Changes in water temperature and reduced flows will cause the loss of trout and salmon habitat, reducing their distribution from historic locations and overall abundance where they will survive.7 Warm water fish will also be impacted as they are stressed by drought and drastic fluctuations in water levels. Their ranges have already changed as they move into waters previously inhabited solely by cold water species of fish. Other concerns include the advancement of exotic species and invasive plant species due to warmer water temperatures that are more conducive to establishment of invasive species.
Marine fishes and their habitats are also at risk. Rising sea levels threaten coastal areas resulting in a loss of warm coastal waters and riparian and upland habitats. Warmer waters, decreased levels of dissolved oxygen and higher salinity will modify habitats and affect the distribution of saltwater species and their ability to reproduce. Marine fisheries will be adversely effected by inundation of coastal marshlands and loss of sea grass beds caused by rising sea levels and severe weather events.
It is the policy of Fly Fishers International to advocate scientifically sound public policies, management practices and educational efforts to minimize and mitigate accelerated rates of climate changes caused by human activities. Most important to these efforts are the positive steps that must be taken to move our nation and encourage other nations toward a more carbon-free energy economy by minimizing the burning of fossil fuels. It is also critical that the natural carbon sequestration function of our forest, grassland and wetland systems be a dominant factor in decision making for restoration and management in order to benefit fish & wildlife, as well as people. The current trend toward accelerated global warming is changing our natural world in a way that will not sustain our quality of life and will negatively impact our enjoyment of our natural world. FFI supports policies and actions on climate change that will provide a healthier and more vibrant natural world.
Other specific actions we advocate include:
1Fly Fishers International Policy on Public Lands and Waters of the United States. 2017. www.flyfishersinternational.org/Conservation/Policies
2Joint Science Academies Statement: Global Response to Climate Change. 2005. http://nationalacademies.org/onpi/06072005.pdf
3National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society. 2008. Climate Change Evidence and Causes reports on Climate Change. http://nas-sites.org/americasclimatechoices/
4National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 2108. Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. https://climate.nasa.gov
5Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. 2012. Sportsmen and Climate Change: A Long Hard Look at Reality. http://www.trcp.org/2012/08/14/sportsmen-and-climate-change-a-long-hard-look-at-reality/
6Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. 2020. TRCP Policy Council Climate Summit – A Summary of Presentations and Discussions. Cambridge, Maryland. 55 pp.
7California Trout Inc. 2017. State of the Salmonids II: Fish in Hot Water. https://watershed.ucdavis.edu/news/2017/05/16/state-salmonids-ii-fish-hot-water
8Wildlife Management Institute. 2008. Seasons End: Global Warming’s Threat to Hunting and Fishing. https://wildlifemanagement.institute/outdoor-news-bulletin/june-2008/climate-change-report-hunters-and-anglers-now-available