Our Man In Canada
May 29th, 2006

Chris Marshall

By Chris Marshall, Alberta, Canada
Publisher Canadian Fly Fisher

As I write this in late January, the temperature is 5 degrees Celsius, the sun is shinning, and the lawn outside my window is green and snowless. Not exactly typical for the north shore of Lake Ontario. Similar unseasonal temperatures have been recorded across the country for most of January. Naturally, anglers are concerned about the effect these conditions might have on fisheries and the fishing tis coming season, especially those in British Columbia and Alberta, where a good snowpack is essential for maintaining water levels in rivers and lakes.

Despite some heated disagreement about the cause, there's not much doubt that we are experiencing global changes in climate patterns, and it's also a pretty safe bet that human produced greenhouse gases are a contributing factor to some degree. However, there are forces at work here which dwarf the activities of mere humans, from fluctuations in the energy output of the sun to the movement of the solar system through the plane of the galaxy—vast, inexorable engines pver which we have no control whatsoever. There's always been climate change and there always will be: it's the natural state of things. Those who convince themselves that we can somehow stabilize climate through regulating human activity live in a fools' paradise — like Canute on his throne at the edge of the North Sea commanding the incoming tide to halt.

However, although it's impossible for us to prevent climate change, we can do something about it. Rather than channeling our energy in trying to stop it, we should be exploring ways to prepare for it, ways to adapt. Our fisheries and fishing are going to change as climate changes. We need to concentrate on determining the probable effects and measures to alleviate these.

There's not much fly fishers and other members of the public can do personally in such an immense task, except support initiatives by government and other agencies. What we can take an active part in, however, is about more immediate threats to our fisheries which are 100% caused by human activity, such as preserving habitat, regulating aquaculture to minimize disease, sea-lice and escapees, and, above all, protecting our supplies of clean water.

Even in this hugely water-rich country, we will run out of clean, unpolluted water long before we feel any significant effects from climate change. We're depleting supplies of fresh water at an alarming rate—tapping them at their sources, natural aquifers and springs. At the same time we're increasingly contaminating the diminished flows with agricultural, industrial and urban runoff. We can all take an active part in working to halt this trend. While plenty of fly fishers are already involved, too many of us simply take the rivers, lakes and oceans where we fish for granted, content to sit back and let others take on the stewardship, only to whinge that "somebody should be doing something" when something nasty happens to their cherished fishing hotspots.

Working together in the present to preserve the integrity of our fisheries can have a significant ameliorating effect when we begin to grapple with the inevitable challenges of climate change in the future. ~ Chris Marshall

Credits: This editorial is from the May/July 2006 issue of Canadian Fly Fisher. We sincerely thank Chris for use permission.

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