Welcome to Fishing in America – Conservation. This is the third in our four part series on a very influential American tradition: fishing. This part of the series will explain the importance of angling to conservation. If you missed the first two they can be found here:
Although many different groups in society claim to either know or be doing what is best for animals, few truly are. Sportsmen and fishermen contributions to wildlife management, conservation efforts, and the overall welfare of animal populations is unmatched by any other industry.
To truly understand the issue, though, we must understand conservation itself. A simple definition of conservation would be the “official supervisions of rivers, forests, and other natural resources in order to preserve and protect them through prudent management.” This includes, but certainly is not limited to, maintenance of habitats, research into population patterns, predator control, and creation of proper rules and regulations that will enhance overall populations.
Most people think that current conservationists are doing a fantastic job, and only getting better as time progresses. Yet, there is a faction of society that identifies with the doctrines of PETA, HSUS, and other animal rights organizations, and they heavily criticizes hunting and fishing for supposed “mistreatment” of animals.
It is ironic that these same radical animal rights advocates have failed to improve conditions in the wild for these animals. If HSUS gives less than 1% of their enormous budget to local animal shelters, can we take a guess on how much is given to restoring wetlands or purchasing conservation acreage?
In fact, animal rights organizations have almost never been involved in conservation. The Conservation movement evolved from the efforts of American sportsmen and fishermen to protect the wildlife, wetlands, and other natural resources that they relied on, as early on as 1890 (1).
As the population expanded and cities became more crowded, citizens looked for and found peaceful retreats in outdoor recreation. Hunting, fishing, and camping, traditional practices that their ancestors used to survive, created the perfect outlet. The outdoors brought people serenity once again. They worked hard to keep these practices protected and keep American tradition alive.
Animal rights organizations have never been huge contributors to conservationist efforts. The need for conservation was recognized by anglers and sportsmen and carried out by anglers and sportsmen, end of story.
A major conservation tool used by these anglers has always been different agencies and organizations, like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These groups help with the organization and decision-making needed to effectively carry out conservation efforts, but it is with the help of individual anglers that the goal is accomplished. Through excise taxes on tackle, the sale of fishing licenses, and personal donations, anglers generated $1.45 billion for fisheries and conservation efforts in 2010. Hunters and anglers together provide 80% of the funding for most state fish and wildlife agencies. These numbers only continue to grow (2).
The money that is raised goes to habitats and fisheries conservation, which in turn created more than 68,000 jobs in 2011(3). Every dollar spent for these fisheries’ stocking and conservation efforts is cycled through retail sales, industrial output, wages/salaries, and federal/local tax services (which stretches taxpayer money to not only help fish, but lift up our economy as well). For example, if the fish stocking program works with a state to stock rainbow trout: for each $1 spent to stock that fish, there will be an economic impact for the area of $32.20 in angler retail sales.
A fine example of direct work from fisheries programs to better a habitat can be found in Florida. Fisheries programs there worked with Eglin Air Force Base to remove dams and other barriers to restore critical passage for the Okaloosa darter. Anglers alone, through that fishery program, supplied over 16% of that funding.
They have paid and will continue to pay for programs like this one throughout the nation. In 2006, anglers provided the funding for states to own and manage 15.4 million acres of habitat (4). Anglers truly are a stream of revenue for conservation that cannot be cut off.
Their work in species conservation, trying to recover threatened and endangered species, is also prevalent across the country. They develop and implement fisheries management plans, restore native species, and control nuisance species and predators. One of these achievements was to recover the once-endangered Apache trout in Arizona. The previously desecrated species is now abundant enough to support recreational fishing!
Yet the scope of conservation impacts far more than just fishing itself – the taxes paid by anglers have helped bring back dozens of non-aquatic species, including ducks, wild turkeys, and white-tailed deer. Angling truly is a huge positive force when it comes to conservation and outdoor recreation.
The best part about all of this is that, according to a 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (5), 91% of all anglers fished in their resident state. This means the huge positive impact that anglers have on the economy and conservation efforts lifts up local communities and helps rural America.
Unlike animal rights organizations, anglers and organizations funded by anglers don’t care about “animal rights,” but about animal populations and animal welfare. These are the people that are down in the mud making a difference. Fishermen, both recreational and as an industry, have a vested interest in thriving fish populations. If one truly cares about these animals they should give support to organizations who actually work for conservation.
The many species of fish spread out across our nation could not survive without the habitats created for them with funding from anglers. If we lose this funding, and animal rights organizations get their way and have fishing demolished, then these species would rapidly die out as their habitats and wetlands deteriorate more and more with each passing year.
The impact of conservation is huge, and it is helped made possible by the members of our fishing industry. You cannot save land and animals without money. You cannot save them without fishermen.
2. American Sportfishing Association January 2013
3. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Net Worth, The Economic Value of Fisheries Conservation. Fall 2011
4. Hunting and Fishing: Bright Stars of the American Economy, A force as big as all outdoors. 2006