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By Jack Williams

Sometimes you need to take a step back to see the whole problem. Or in this case, a whole lot of steps because the problem is the decline of native trout across the entire Northern Hemisphere.

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, Trout Unlimited and the Illinois Natural History Survey recently reviewed the status of native trout across 52 countries as part of an upcoming book on trouts and chars of the world to be published by the American Fisheries Society. The message was so striking that they wrote a letter that was recently published in the prestigious journal Science calling for global action to save these iconic but increasingly imperiled group of fishes.

You can view their letter here.

According to the report, of the 124 recognized species of trout worldwide, more than half (67 or 54 percent) have been classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Of these, 73 percent are currently threatened with extinction and four are already extinct. That is a much greater percentage of imperiled species than almost any other animal or plant group.

Trout may be iconic, beautiful and valued, but that has not saved them from the increasing degradation of our planet. The list of problems is long and familiar: dams, overgrazing, pollution, overfishing, channelization and invasive species. Rapid climate change is making these problems worse as global temperatures rise and droughts, floods and wildfires increase in intensity. As the authors note, trout are more frequently finding themselves in hot water around the globe. That should provide a call to action for all of us.

Jack Williams is TU’s emeritus senior scientist.

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