Angling experiences lead to conservation National Fishing and Boating Week is a reminder that stewardship is important — stewards of our families and our natural resources
National Fishing and Boating Week (June 4-12, 2005) is a great time to take a kid fishing.
The faintest early light spatters through the trees on the lake shore. On the water, an angler plies closer, quietly, barely cutting the water to the low click and hum of a trolling motor. Deftly delivered, a topwater lure lands over a submerged log; the concentric rings fade back to glass. The angler waits in hope to outwit the object of affection.
Anglers epitomize eternal optimists; they cast hope. Over 40 million Americans call themselves anglers and their hopes and passions for the outdoors power an enormous economic engine, spending more than $41 billion a year.
National Fishing and Boating Week (June 4-12, 2005) is a reminder to me that stewardship is important — being good stewards of our families, and our natural resources.
You can steward your family by spending quality time with them in a boat or under a creekside tree, as my mother did with me. Our time together created keepsakes of the heart that I carry with me still. Her stewardship planted a conservation ethic in me — seeds that grew into a career as a fishery biologist — and I remain an ardent angler. This special week reminds me that without conservation, quality angling wouldn’t be possible.
Fisheries conservation in the U.S. dates back 134 years to when President Grant created the U.S. Fish Commission, the forerunner of the agency I help lead, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The Service’s Fisheries Program that I oversee had its beginnings essentially in the Smithsonian Institution with its Secretary, Spencer Baird, a consummate scientist concerned about the decline of fisheries. Baird and fellow scientists encouraged the Congress to create the Fish Commission; in 1871, President Grant agreed it was necessary.
Today’s Fisheries Program has evolved through time, always seeking to employ leading-edge science and technology. The Service today employs fish health pathologists, geneticists, veterinary doctors, and contaminant specialists. Fish biologists trained in hydrology and watershed management and other natural sciences know the vagaries of habitat conservation. Our scientists know how to manage habitats and culture sport fishes and fishes so rare and imperiled, they would otherwise squarely stare extinction in the face.
Conserving fishes and their habitats has everything to do with people. People and fish need clean water. A habitat intact is the first protection in fisheries conservation. Ben Franklin’s adage about an ounce of prevention couldn’t ring more true than in habitat conservation. Franklin also said that “necessity never struck a bargain,” and it is simply a necessity to conserve habitats that people and fish rely upon — for the benefit of both.
A fishing trip with her mother has led Dr. Mamie Parker into a life of conserving our fishing resources.
The Service has made huge strides in habitat and species conservation in recent years. Working in concert with our conservation partners — states fish and game agencies, tribes, and conservation groups — important fisheries have rebounded. Witness the greenback cutthroat trout in Colorado, the Gila trout in New Mexico and Arizona, lake trout in the Great Lakes, paddlefish through the Heartland, and striped bass along the Atlantic Coast.
In some cases, these fishes have returned from the brink of extinction to the point of contributing to regional economies with followings of ardent anglers — anglers who in many cases invested sweat equity in habitat conservation. These conservation successes underscore that my agency does not work alone.
Though today’s Fisheries Program is well into its second century, time doesn’t distance us from conservation problems. Then as now, scientists are challenged to find answers to conservation problems.
Nearly 50 of the 70 National Fish Hatcheries presently work with imperiled species — and not only fish —but turtles, mussels, rare aquatic plants. Hatcheries have been critical in past conservation successes. Whirling disease and largemouth bass virus, insidious ailments, could threaten the well being of native trouts and important warm water sport fisheries.
Invasive species, like Asian carp march up the Mississippi River and tributaries, breeding profusely, threatening to monopolize the nutrients needed by other animals.
The round goby invasion in the Great Lakes could damage smallmouth bass and walleye fishing and affect human health. Contaminants that degrade habitat continue to demand serious attention. Urbanization and poor land use practices degrade lakes and streams.
As the American population grows, the demand, and the very need for nature will increase. And this underscores the need to conserve habitats. In the long term, habitat conservation and ensuring the well being of aquatic species in general will benefit people.
Healthy fish and healthy habitats mean healthy people and a healthy economy. In the end, that means better fishing. When that topwater lure hits the glassy water, the concentric rings ripple through the economy, through tills and treasuries, contributing to the quality of life even for people who have no inclination to venture lakeside.
Dr. Parker is the Assistant Director for Fisheries and Habitat Conservation in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
By Dr. Mamie Parker
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service