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Climate change may make some days too darned hot to fish off the Southeast coast

Some days, it’s just too hot to be outside. Researchers anticipate a drop in recreational fishing as climate change raises the planet’s temperatures.

Under a scenario where climate change advances on its current path, participation in recreational fishing off the Southeast coast will drop 15% by 2080, researchers say.

“It’s really the extreme hot temperatures that are going to lead to reductions in recreational participation in shoreline fishing,” said Roger von Haefen, a professor at NC State University. “Once it gets real hot, there’s nothing to do except stay in air conditioning and stay home.”

Von Haefen and co-author Steven Dundas, an associate professor at Oregon State University, used data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration based on interviews with anglers to determine how people who fish for fun will respond as temperatures get warmer.

Much of the research on climate change centers on how it will affect agriculture, forests and human health, von Haefen said. Not much has been written about how climate change will affect daily routines and recreation, he said.

“Our study is one of the first to do this in a credible way,” he said in an interview Monday.

The research paper on recreational fishing does not contemplate what fish might be swimming off the coasts as the Earth gets warmer. Oceans are becoming hotter and more acidic, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in a report released last month.

People still enjoy fishing as temperatures increase from the ideal 70 to 75 degrees, von Haefen and Dundas wrote in the paper published in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists. Up to a point, people adapt to the heat, with some deciding to fish at night or before dawn.

It’s when it gets into the mid-90s that people cut back, von Haefen said.

The global warming effect on anglers differs depending on the location. While recreational fishing will drop along the Gulf and Southeast coasts, it will stay about the same in the mid-Atlantic states and become more popular off the New England coast, they wrote.

Von Haefen and Dundas looked at fishing under three different global warming scenarios described by climate scientists. Climate scientists made predictions for warming based on greenhouse gases stabilizing at about their current level and temperatures increasing about 1 degree over the next 80 years, to the worst case, where temperatures increase by about 9 degrees., the Atlantic reported.

While von Haefen and Dundas predicted people will fish more during cooler months, fishing will decline overall.

Not only will the heat hurt anglers’ enjoyment, the decline in fishing will hit bait shops, hotels and other businesses that depend on activity along the coast, von Haefen said.

Von Haefen said he and Dundas looked at recreational fishing because that activity had the best data available. He’d like to look at other recreational activities next — maybe boating.

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