The following represent questions we have been asked by members, partners and the general public, along with our formal response to such. The intention is to clarify our position on important issues such as nonnative fish, stocking, chemical reclamation, tackle, harvest, etc.
Q: Is Native fish coalition a conservation or fishing organization, or both?
A: While most of our Board and Advisory Council members are avid fly fishers, and some make all or part of their living in the recreational fishing industry, Native Fish Coalition is a conservation organization, not a fishing organization. We believe that native fish have intrinsic value and are an integral component of a healthy environment. As anglers, we also believe that wild native fish represent fishing in its purest and finest form, and if you take care of these fish, the fishing will take care of itself.
Q: is the native fish coalition a salmonid conservation organization?
A: While much of our focus is on trout, charr and salmon, as they are often the species in most need of help, Native Fish Coalition is not a salmonid-specific organization. Being such would ignore the big picture, and the fact that all native fish are dependent on one another to at least some degree. Some species provide food for other species, others provide a buffer for juvenile anadromous salmonids returning to sea, and some help lessen predation on freshwater salmonids via their sheer abundance.
Q: What is native fish coalition's position regarding wild, or self-sustaining, fish such as browns, rainbows, brook trout, landlocked salmon, bass or pike where they are not native?
A: Native Fish Coalition is not “against” nonnative fish, we are “for” native fish. In fact, not all nonnative fish are “invasive.” We will address nonnative fish only when they are negatively impacting native fish, and then only when control, reduction or eradication is a biologically and economically feasible option. In fact, as avid recreational anglers, many of our board members fish for nonnative species.
Q: what is native fish coalition's position regarding stocking?
A: Native Fish Coalition is against stocking over wild native fish, as stocked fish compete with native fish for food and space, prey on juvenile native fish, suppress natural reproduction, negatively impact genetic diversity, and introduce disease and parasites. While we have our concerns as to the cost of stocking in support of recreational angling, especially put-and-take fishing, and believe the money could be better used elsewhere, this is not something Native Fish Coalition will get involved in, except when it negatively impacts wild native fish. We also see targeted and temporary “Restoration/Conservation Stocking” as a valuable tool for restoring native fish populations.
Q: what is native fish coalition's position regarding the use of chemical treatment (rotenone) to eradicate nonnative fish?
A: While Native Fish Coalition sees rotenone as an invaluable tool for use in native fish restoration, we recognize that it is not a perfect solution and comes with a price both environmentally and socially. It also treats the symptom, not the problem, and is reactive not proactive. That said, in many cases, chemical treatment is the only way to effectively remove nonnative species that are imperiling native species. Take it off the table, and we would lose some level of native fish populations which is a far worse alternative.
Q: what is native fish coalition's position regarding bait fishing?
A: One of our concerns regarding bait is its high incidental mortality rate. According to most studies, roughly 30% of fish released after being caught on bait die. This can negatively impact a wild native fish population, including non-target native species. The impact can be lessened by using circle hooks and barbless hooks. Of even greater concern, and far more of a threat to native fish, is the potential for the accidental introduction of nonnative species, disease and parasites when using live minnows, and even crayfish, frogs, leeches, etc. While there is a place for bait fishing, there are times when the impact and risks are simply too high. When it comes to live bait, unless it is harvested at the source, it doesn’t belong anywhere wild native fish are present.
Q: what is native fish coalition's position regarding fishing with lures?
A: Native Fish Coalition is not against lure fishing. Most studies show similar incidental mortality rates between flies and lures. We believe that with a few adjustments and concessions, it could be even closer. Substituting single-point hooks for treble hooks or breaking one or two hook points off would help lower incidental mortality, as would using barbless hooks. Where tackle restrictions are deemed necessary to protect a wild native fish population, we see single-hook, single-point artificial lure only restrictions as an acceptable compromise in most cases. This allows anglers to use the tackle they already have.
Q: what is native fish coalition's position regarding harvesting fish?
A: Native Fish Coalition is not opposed to the harvest of stocked or nonnative fish, as it is a social and economic issue, not an environmental issue. And while we feel prudence is warranted and believe C&R is good for wild native fish populations, we are not absolutely opposed to the “sustainable” harvest of wild native fish. We are however opposed to the harvest of wild native fish when it results in a noticeable decrease or change in population size, age-class distribution or average size, all of which can negatively impact the population. Harvest can also result in the need for “supplemental” stocking, which compromises wild native fish populations.
Q: what is native fish coalition's position regarding catch-and-release?
A: Native Fish Coalition sees C&R as an invaluable tool for protecting rare fish, as well as wild native fish that have been compromised by habitat degradation, invasive introductions, angler exploitation, stocking, etc. While we may lobby for C&R to protect wild native fish, we will not get involved in efforts to impose C&R on stocked or nonnative fish, as this is a social and economic issue, not an environmental issue. While many fish populations have been saved by C&R; none have ever been destroyed by it.
Q: what is native fish coalition's position regarding EFFORTS to grow larger fish for recreational angling?
A: While Native Fish Coalition does not oppose the use of “husbandry” to grow larger stocked and nonnative fish, we are opposed to doing so to manage wild native fish. Attempts to grow larger fish often involve population reductions under the belief that “fewer fish means more food, more food means bigger fish.” Not only is this an oversimplification of a complex issue, it doesn’t always work and it can cause problems. Our belief is that wild native fish should be what natural environmental factors dictate, not what we want them to be. While you can harvest your way into trouble, you can rarely harvest yoru way out of it.
Q: what is native fish coalition's position regarding climate change?
A: Left unchecked, Native Fish Coalition sees climate change as a potential game-changer and a significant threat to the nation’s wild native fish – especially salmonids. While it has the potential to make everything else moot, we can’t and should not all be working on the same thing at once, and we can’t afford to ignore the other threats to our wild native fish. As a small grassroots organization, we feel we are best suited for hands-on advocacy at the local and state levels with focus on what others are not addressing, rather than what others are already working on.