March 28, 2016
BRIDGTON, ME – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Senate Climate Action Task Force, joined with representatives from Maine conservation and outdoor recreation groups for a forum at the Lakes Environmental Associate Science Center in Bridgton to highlight the impact of climate change on ice fishing in Maine. At the event titled “Fishing on Thin Ice,” Senator King emphasized the proud tradition of outdoor recreation in Maine and underscored the dangers of inaction as climate change continues to effect Maine’s environment and economy.
“All across the state, Maine people and businesses are witnessing the dangerous effects of climate change first hand. And if we don’t come together to meet these challenges head on, we will continue to see fewer and fewer outdoor opportunities for our anglers, hunters, and everyone who enjoys the wonderful natural resources that Maine has to offer,” said Senator King. “Activities like ice fishing or snowmobiling are not only inseparable parts of our identity as a state, but they are also important economic drivers that strengthen our communities and help support jobs. In the face of increasingly unpredictable seasons and fluctuating weather patterns, it’s clear that we have to work collaboratively – not only to protect our time-honored outdoor traditions, but to safeguard our local economies as well.”
A recent global analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that 2015 eclipsed 2014 as the warmest year on record. NOAA also determined that global temperatures for February 2016 set a new record for the highest monthly departure from average temperatures. Furthermore, according to a report released last year by the University of Maine, average annual temperatures in Maine have increased by three degrees over the past century, resulting in changes to the length and character of the seasons that directly impact Maine’s winter recreational activities, such as ice fishing.
Temperature fluctuations like these have contributed to earlier ice-out date at lakes and ponds around the state, which is the date at which the ice thaws and begins to break apart in each body of water. This year continued a trend of earlier ice-out dates, and according to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, the 2015/2016 winter could set a record for early ice-out. Earlier ice-out dates mean a shorter ice fishing season, and threaten the longevity of this and other winter recreational activities. Just this year, mild winter weather has forced the cancellation or postponement of several fishing derbies, including the Sebago Lake Rotary Derby which, for the fourth time in twelve years, had to be moved to smaller lakes. Furthermore, increased atmospheric temperatures can also result in higher lake water temperatures, which, along with more storms and precipitation, can detrimentally alter the ecological balance central to the long-term sustainability of fish populations.
According to a 2013 report from the National Wildlife Federation, freshwater recreational fishing generates more than $250 million per year in Maine and contributes approximately $26 billion to the national economy.
As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Climate Action Task Force, Senator King has worked to highlight the impacts of climate change in Maine and the need for collective action at all levels of government. He has frequently discussed the environmental and economic dangers associated with increasing ocean acidification and rising water temperatures – including the possibility that the lobster population could be driven northward away from Maine waters. He has consistently worked to promote energy policies in the Senate – such as the Administration’s Clean Power Plan – that reduce our carbon footprint and promote a cleaner, more environmentally-friendly future.
Organizations cosponsoring today’s event include Environment Maine, Trout Unlimited, Loon Echo Land Trust, and the Sebago Lake Anglers Association.
Photo 1: Senator King at the “Fishing on Thin Ice” event in Bridgton.
Photo 2: Senator King discussing climate change at ice fishing event in Bridgton.