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Report: Climate Change on Hook for Damage to FLA Freshwater Fisheries

Photo: Striped Bass are among the species at risk. Courtesy:
Photo: Striped Bass are among the species at risk. Courtesy:
September 5, 2013

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The thousands of freshwater fish and other animals that call Florida home are feeling the heat from climate change, according to a report, Swimming Upstream, released this week by the National Wildlife Federation.

Rising sea levels and increasing water temperatures are threatening species such as striped bass, American shad, shoal bass and others that count on fresh water for survival.

Manley Fuller, president and CEO of the Florida Wildlife Federation, says the carbon pollution that's spurring climate change is shifting the whole ecosystem.

"Climate shaped the fish's current distributions and future climates will reshape that,” he says. “And so if it becomes too warm then they won't be able to continue to exist in Florida."

Fuller says rising sea levels and the influx of warmer saltwater is forcing many freshwater species north and changing the biodiversity from the Panhandle to the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

Freshwater fishing in Florida contributes more than $700 million annually to the state's economy and there are an estimated 1.2 million freshwater anglers in the state.

Nationwide, there are 147 freshwater fish species listed as threatened or endangered. Fuller says while the impact on fish is evident, rising temperatures and sea levels will have a domino effect.

"The habitat in which the fish live is habitat for lots of other organisms,” he explains. “In varying degrees it affects practically everything. "

The National Wildlife Federation and other environmental groups are calling for the Environmental Protection Agency to finalize the limits on carbon from new and existing power plants by 2016.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL