Re: NANFA-L-- (Re-focus) Releasing native fish back to the wild

Jase Roberts (
Thu, 24 Aug 2006 13:55:02 -0400

Hi All,

So to refocus a bit, here's the basic question(s):

1) We're all going to run into situations (think of a move) where the only viable options are to release a native fish back where it was collected, or to euthanize it. If you're dealing with exceedingly common species (think sunfish or perch) and don't live near other native fish nuts, sending them to live with someone else isn't practical (and may not be legal if they'd need to cross state lines). I'm not an animal rights nut, but I don't relish the thought of euthanizing a healthy fish simply because I can't keep it.

2) Thus far (3 years into this hobby), I keep only natives (no aquarium fish), and only from near my home. I also don't buy live food, other than starter cultures which I propagate myself from that point. The point is that there's not a serious issue of mixing in fish/equipment from the aquarium trade (where all sorts of exotic diseases may lurk), or from widely separated geographic areas.

3) As has been established through discussion, there is a LOT of movement of fish and water between nearby bodies of water anyway: A) Bait dealers capturing stock from the wild (legal here with a $20 permit)and selling to fishermen who transport it all over, B) Recreational/fishing boats, livewells, and landing nets being moved from lake to lake, C) Natural processes, including connecting streams and movement of waterfowl (especially fish-eating ones), D) Incompletely sterilized collecting equipment, which comes in direct contact with lots of fish, and E) Probably several other vectors which I haven't thought of

4) Given the various vectors for disease transmission given in "2)" above, is it likely that pathogens would still be so localized as to exist in one body of water but not another a few miles away?

5) And, finally, is catching native fish from a few local bodies of water, keeping them communally for a time (or imperfectly separated), then releasing them locally somehow different enough from all the other vectors in "2)", and significant enough in terms of volume, that is presents a real risk? Sure, the risk of disease transmission is non-zero, but is it far enough from zero to warrant euthanizing healthy fish rather than releasing?

I'm trying to approach this with an open mind -- but as Todd mentioned, I'm the kind of person who wants to understand if the blanket declaration "Never release native fish back to the wild" is really based on sound science, and applies in all cases.

Dave wrote, "So, I agree that we are a smaller part of the problem than some others are. So, if a fellow only murders one person a year, while a mobster murders many, is the first person not guilty?" If there's a *real* risk of spreading disease by carefully releasing fish, I agree -- best not to do it. But are pathogens so local, and is keeping/releasing local native fish significant enough given all the other vectors in "2)", that the risk is real?

Thanks for the discussion,

Crail, Todd wrote:
> Do what you feel is right, you guys are adults. If you're doing that... it
> won't matter if someone else issues a blanket statement about what you're
> doing. The blanket statement should be compelling in it's own regard, if it's
> truth. If not... Well, it's not compelling ;)

Jase Roberts
Lewiston, Maine
on the Androscoggin River
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