Climate change: What’s happening?

Ralph Shaw

Special to The Record

 

This is not the column I planned for this week; but in light of several events that are  ongoing, I decided to write about some of  the current outcomes from our changing climate.

Some time ago I wrote about the huge blob of warm water off our  west coast extending from Mexico to  Alaska. Last week a friend showed me the picture of the blob as it appeared on his cell  phone. He explained he had been watching since February and it continues to grow. This week a friend who is a charter boat operator who frequently fishes in the Cape Scott – Pine Island area at the north end of the Island, reported seeing blue water we associate with the pelagic fish migrations –  on the east side of Vancouver Island. This water is normally at least 20 miles west of the Island – offshore. To get your head around the concept of this huge blob of warm water in the north eastern Pacific we have a perfect analogy. Right now we are surrounded by a huge blob of smoke from fires burning throughout our province, that we can smell and watch as it drifts throughout our cities and communities on Vancouver Island. If you were a salmon you may have problems connecting with the grey blob in the atmosphere, while feeling its affects on the temperature of the water you are travelling on your spawning odyssey. The great blob of warm water on our outer coast carries all the threats to life and survival that smoke and fire carry as in the case of Port Hardy this week. This event hit close to home with us – on Friday, July 4 in the evening when our daughter phoned to tell us not to worry as they had just been evacuated from their home and were praying it would be there when they can return. It didn’t help us when we learned she fell and broke two ribs while loading stuff into the truck. Aside from being coated with fire retardant, their home has been saved and they are allowed back as of July 6. They are still water-bombing the fire area, but people have been allowed to return to their homes, but cautioned to be ready to leave again if the fire flares up.

As of last weekend, 14 of the major rivers south of Campbell River have been closed to recreational fishing to prevent fish from being stressed out by angling, whether it is catch and release or otherwise. The main reason for these closures is the lack of water and a growing drought in our province. Folks, our salmon need all the help they can get in these times of warming waters – when are  the rivers north of the Campbell River going to be closed?

The build-up of carbon-dioxide in our waters is turning our planet’s water supplies more acidic. When salmon try to navigate back to their home streams they are being further confused by acid water that is dulling their instinctive navigational skills. The result is that pink salmon are currently showing signs of confusion in returning to their home streams. Add to the navigation problem of rivers approaching the critical 20 degree Celsius barrier, beyond which they begin to die. Climate change is creating some serious barriers in our  efforts to protect these important sources of food to a wide spectrum of life that rely on healthy ecosystems.

In the meantime our current senior governments respond  to the survival faced by society by promoting more carbon dioxide producing  mines, oilfields, pipelines and LNG plants. Sometimes I think those in charge of our country’s  economic growth  are confused about the needs of society at large.

Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.

 

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