Nov 09, 2015
My Oregon heritage is a big part of who I am, and my family’s identity. I’m a third generation native Oregonian from Astoria. My mother’s family brought the Catholic missionaries across the Oregon Trail. My job both as a Columbia River fisherman and Alaska fisherman are part of my family history. I learned how to do this job from my dad, and I take pride in the fact that I harvest salmon to feed the Pacific Northwest. It’s like Christmas every day, filling the net and knowing the fish I gather will feed families all over our state and beyond.
The weather greatly impacts my industry. It impacts our catch, and when extreme weather hits we can’t do our jobs. My industry depends on the health of the natural environment. As someone who has been doing this for many years, I see how our climate is changing, and how those changes impact the weather. I see the effects of a changing climate in Oregon, and in Alaska where I often work in the summers.
In Oregon, we’re seeing the effects of a low snow run-off. We’ve had less rain, and the precipitation we have had is too warm to fall as snow on the mountain. These changes mean a warmer, lower river. Lower snowpack directly affects my industry.
When the river is warm, fish don’t have the tendency to hold within the river, meaning they shoot right upriver to their spawning grounds. This is not their natural behavior, altering both their normal lifecycle and making it more difficult to catch them. Warmer water causes salmon to spend time in cooler, deeper water as opposed to being in the flats where they normally are. Lower water levels also create sandbars in parts of the river where they’ve never been before, making it harder for fisherman to navigate the channel. In essence, a changing climate makes my job harder to do.
In Alaska, the weather has also been much warmer, with less snowpack and ice. These weather changes affect how we can fish in places like Cook Inlet, which has been much warmer these last few years. Alaskan fishermen discuss climate change openly as a factor impacting their business. Some Oregon fishermen even venture to Alaska during low-yield years as a way to recover lost revenue. We may see that more and more if current warming trends continue in Oregon.
I’m most worried about climate change as it impacts our water. I believe in the future, we’ll experience water restrictions much like what California is seeing now, limiting the amount of water we’ll have to drink and use. We think water is this endless resource, but it’s not. The amount of water available to the Willamette Valley to farmers, ranchers and regular citizens will all be affected.
I want the world my 18 year-old son inherits to be a healthy, thriving place – not a world of droughts and extreme weather; a place where salmon are a story from Oregon’s past and not part of our present. I support Renew Oregon because I’m seeing the effects of climate change in my work and it can’t continue this way. I want my industry to thrive. Fishing is part of Oregon’s natural resource heritage, and I want it to continue for years to come.