Massive Yellowstone River Fishkill Points to the Bad New Normal

183 Mile Stretch of the Yellowstone is Closed to All Activities As Whitefish, Trout and Other Species Go Belly Up

Those who would like you to believe that global warming might not be such a bad thing don’t seem to consider the rapidly accumulating economic costs.* The early stages of Abrupt Climate Change are already costing billions of dollars to clean up high profile weather events, but the “news media” is squeamish about attributing these events to rising temperatures and a planetary climate breakdown. NOAA has pointed out that the epic Louisiana flood of August 2016 is the eighth case of a once-in-every-500-years events for the USA.

Ultimately, the footprint of the changing climate will be seen in a series of smaller scale catastrophes such as Montana’s devastating summer of 2016 fishkill. It is a prime example of events at the leading edge of a shifting calamity that occurs in increments, like the proverbial frog in a pot. In addition to tens of thousands of fish, the victims in this case are the thousands of people who make their living in the Montana outdoor industry. With fishing, boating, rafting and other activities banned from the Yellowstone and hundreds of miles of tributaries businesses are suddenly shut down until further notice.

The ecological disaster on the Yellowstone is in many ways typical of the new normal in that it has multiple causes. The immediate cause of mortality is a parasite that causes a kidney disease in the fish. But it is the conditions caused by global warming that stress the fish population to the point that they have lost their resistance to the disease. Warming water temperatures are hard on these cold water species, as are the lower water levels that reduce available food and oxygen for the fish. Put simply, the fish are more likely to become ill as their environment is compromised. Unlike humans, river fish species are unable to migrate.


“This kill is unprecedented in magnitude. We haven’t seen something like this in Montana,” Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokeswoman Andrea Jones told Smithsonian.com.


So if you think warmer winters are going to improve your life, take up that conversation with the raft operators, tackle shops and fishing guides that are, for want of a better term, dead in the water until the catastrophe runs its course.


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