Climate Change Projected To Move Salmon North

Coho salmon are among the species anticipated to shift northward with climate change
Coho salmon are among the species anticipated to shift northward with climate change

Oregon’s salmon might be moving toward Alaska at a rate of about 30 kilometers (19 miles) a decade, according to a study in the January 2015 issue of Progress in Oceanography. “Marine life is being affected by changes in ocean conditions resulting from changes in climate and chemistry triggered by combustion of fossil fuels,” the study says.

This news comes as Oregon continues to debate the oil trains, coal export and liquified natural gas (LNG) pipeline and export facilities that are jockeying for position throughout the state.

It isn’t just Oregon salmon that will be pushed northward by warming waters, according to the study done by scientists from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the universities of British Columbia and Victoria, other fish species as well as sharks and gray whales will be affected as well. This will mean some fish will disappear from the waters off the coasts of Oregon and California, fishing grounds will shift and fish communities will be altered as species enter new territories.

The study estimated changes in the distribution of 28 near-surface fish species in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The researchers used projected ocean condition changes from three different Earth System Models to forecast “how the distribution of the fish would shift by 2050 as greenhouse gases warm the atmosphere and, in turn, the ocean surface,” according to a NOAA press release. Years in which El Niño is in effect and tropical influences temporarily warm the eastern Pacific, “offer a preview of what to expect as the climate warms.”

Richard Brodeur, a co-author of the study and a NOAA Fisheries senior scientist, says, “As the climate warms, the species will follow the conditions they’re adapted to.”

Not only will fish species such as warm-water thresher sharks and chub mackerel become more prominent in the Gulf of Alaska and off British Columbia, the study projects, but also some predators such as sea lions and seabirds may find the fish they usually prey on moving beyond their usual foraging ranges and far from their rookeries and colonies. Predators and fishermen will either have to go after a different species or shift northwards as the fish move.

According to a September study by Seattle-based think tank Sightline Institute, proposed Pacific Northwest coal, oil and gas exports would have the carbon equivalent of more than five Keystone XL pipelines.

On Dec. 29, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality announced the extension of the public comment period for the Jordan Cove Energy Project (an LNG facility) “401 water quality certification.” A 401 water quality certification is required from DEQ for any federally licensed or permitted projects that may result in a discharge into navigable waters. The comment period will now close at 5 pm on Friday, March 13, 2015. For more information go to

The draft environmental impact statement for the Pacific Connector Pipeline associated with Jordan Cove was released Nov. 7, and the comment period on that ends Feb. 13, 2015, go to to file comments.