Warming Waters Could Shift Salmon, Other Species on West Coast

12 December 2014

Fights over salmon have raged for decades in the Pacific Northwest. Overfishing in the late 19th century, the proliferation of dams in Oregon and Washington in the 20th, and more recent ecological shifts have set tribes, conservationists and the fishing industry head to head over the diminishing resource.

By the end of the 21st century, though, there may be nothing left to fight about.

The waters off the coast of the Pacific Northwest are warming, particularly in the upper reaches where pelagic fish like salmon and capelin swim and feed. If that trend continues, it could push many species northward by an average of 30 kilometers per decade, according to research published this week in the journal Progress in Oceanography.

The corresponding reshuffling along the Pacific Coast—with species mixing in new ways and new habitats—will have consequences that, at present, are difficult to predict, according to the study’s authors.

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