As Glaciers Subside, Salmon Face a New Threat: Mining Companies

As Glaciers Subside, Salmon Face a New Threat: Mining Companies

As human-caused climate change points a giant hair dryer at Western North America’s glaciers, melting them ever more rapidly, potential Pacific salmon habitat is opening up. New river systems are starting to flow, and rain and snowmelt will keep many running even after the ice disappears. In some, salmon are appearing for the first time.

But mining companies are homing in, too. According to peer-reviewed research published in Science last November, there’s substantial overlap between potential future salmon habitat and new mining claims in Southeast Alaska and in western British Columbia, where many Pacific salmon spawn. But there is hope: The establishment of Indigenous protected areas in British Columbia could protect at least some of these new waterways, and their fish, for future generations.

“The science is very clear,” said Naxginkw Tara Marsden (Gitanyow Huwilp), who co-authored the study. Marsden is the Wilp Sustainability director for the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs, whose unceded traditional territory lies in what today is British Columbia. “There are both risks and potential short-term benefits with salmon finding new habitats and adapting, and we need to do what we can to ensure that those areas are protected.” 

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