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  • Written by Rick Ellis

Why Is It So Hard For Discovery Shows To Mention Climate Change?

I was recently catching up on the new season of Discovery's long-running Friday night series "Bering Sea Gold," and I was reminded of how strange it is that even though a number of Discovery shows are set in Alaska, none of them seem comfortable mentioning the subject of climate change. Which is an issue, because many of the shows in recent seasons have centered around the impact changes in the climate have had on cast members and their livelihoods. 

In fact, the primary storyline of this season's "Bering Sea Gold" is an early thaw and heavy run-off, which has changed the look of the seabed where much of the underground gold mining takes place. But even though that run-off is mentioned numerous times each episode, the topic of climate change has never come up once. It's as if the change in weather happened because of some magical happening that is completely impossible to explain.

It's not as if the participants of these shows don't understand what is causing the changes in their environment. I spoke with 'Deadliest Catch' Captain Keith Colburn three years ago and it was a subject he was already grappling with on a daily basis:

It's going to be just the same as we've seen on the East Coast. For instance, Rhode Island used to have a more than 100-million pound a season cod catch. And now it's down to maybe five million. Most of that population has moved north into Maine. What happened in Rhode Island was that as the water warmed, predator fish moved in and started to seek out the cod and other fish that were there. Lobster populations are moving north and at some point you're going to need a Canadian passport to catch lobster on the East Coast.

My concern in Alaska is that we're going to see predator fish moving in. It could be Cod, it could be something else. But my fear is that these fish will move into the warmer water, become more prolific and push out the populations we fish. We just don't know. Scientists really struggle with trying to predict what we're going to fish and when we're going to catch it. And that's the scariest thing right now. We just don't know what's going to happen. We just know it's going to change.

The thing is, the lifespan of a crab is only seven years or so. So it only takes a few years to completely disrupt the biomass as they reproduce.

So why isn't Discovery pushing this topic more aggressively? I honestly don't know and I haven't been able to get any comment on the record from anyone at the network. It's a strange choice, however, since outside of the United States, climate change is much less political and contentious. And since Discovery's programming is seen around the globe, it seems as is climate change would be a topic of worldwide interest. But that's just me...