By McIntosh, Phyllis
Climate Change Already Altering Ecology of North American Waters
MANY FISH SPECIES and aquatic ecosystems throughout North America are showing the effects of climate change, and future impact is likely to be significant unless nations take steps to address global warming.
So concluded experts who spoke at a recent workshop--Climate Change and the Water Ecology of the Great Lakes--hosted by NWF's Climate Change and Wildlife Program, and at a forum on fisheries and climate change, cosponsored by NWF and the American Fisheries Society.
Conferees reported that:
Warmer sea temperatures have contributed to a reduction in herring populations in the Bering Sea near Alaska. This has led to a decline in the region's sea lions.
Warming of the Great Lakes is likely to cause a seasonal decline in algae, an important food source for fish, and could make the lakes more hospitable to invasive exotic species such as round gobies.
Cool- and cold-water fish, such as walleye and trout, are being pushed farther northward into Canada, while warm-water species, such as smallmouth bass, are moving into northern U.S. waters. Brook and rainbow trout could lose all of their viable habitat in the Great Lakes region, scientists predict.
The Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico are losing coastal tidal marshes to rising sea levels. These marshes provide nursery habitat for fish and shellfish.
Coral bleaching can no longer be tied solely to weather phenomena such as El Nino. Warmer seas are also to blame.
Climate change exacerbates the effects of other stresses, such as overfishing and pollution, on commercially important fish species. Canada already has been forced to impose a fishing moratorium on Atlantic cod.
Through its Climate Change and Wildlife Program, NWF works to educate the public and policymakers about the importance of reducing our dependence on burning coal, oil and natural gas--fuels that produce climate-altering carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
To learn more about this issue, see www.nwf.org/climate.
NWF Wins Court Victory Against Electric Utilities
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has dismissed two electric utility industry lawsuits that threatened to impede development of national standards to control mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.
The court granted motions to dismiss that had been filed by NWF, several other environmental groups and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Last year, EPA decided for the first time to regulate mercury from power plants, closing a loophole that had exempted electric utilities from emission standards that apply to all other major sources of hazardous air pollutants. The decision was a victory for NWF's Clean the Rain campaign (for more information, see www.nwf.org/cleantherain), which has publicized the health hazards of mercury-laden precipitation and generated grass-roots support for regulation.
The Bush administration is now considering whether to reduce mercury emissions from power plants under current law or by some other mechanism. NWF is urging its members to let EPA know they want standards that will reduce mercury by at least 90 percent.
Write to Assistant Administrator Jeffrey Holmstead, EPA Office of Air and Radiation, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, Mail Drop 6101-A, Washington, DC 20460.
World Trade Group Upholds U.S. Right To Protect Turtles
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has affirmed the right of the United States to restrict imports of shrimp caught by methods that can kill sea turtles--a decision that NWF has hailed as a victory both for imperiled turtles and the right of nations to enforce wildlife conservation through international trade.
The decision was also a victory for NWF, which filed a precedent- setting friend-of-the-court brief before the WTO dispute settlement panel on behalf of environmental groups in India, Chile, Kenya and the United States. …