Re: NANFA-- position on educational collecting (was Carillio in the

Shireen Gonzaga (
Tue, 28 Aug 2001 19:19:59 -0400

Robert Carillio said:
>> I mean even if all collecting would stop, these fishes
>> still have the major threats to their habitats, like
>> the poorly planned developement that was mentioned.
>> no habitat means no fish

Jay replied:
> There is so little collecting going on anywhere anyway.
> NA natives will never catch on as aquarium fishes, except
> for killifishes and livebearers (some of which HAVE
> suffered from over-collecting). Biologists and
> administrators and others who name collecting as a
> universal threat are coming from their own biases or
> ignorance. A carefully worded position from NANFA may
> be of some help.

There may be little collecting going on right now, and
yes, habitat destruction is *the* problem. But let's
just examine one issue in isolation: collecting for

A) What happens if NANFA does a spectacularly effective
job of spreading the word about how wonderful native
fish are through their education efforts? What happens
when the legions of new native fish enthusiasts take a
look at NANFA's position statement and say, hey! I can
catch these fish (if it's legal in my state) and keep
them in aquariums. Is this the time to ponder the issue
of collecting for entertainment?

B) OK, now let's say that despite NANFA's best efforts,
people just don't get it and native fish interest
continues to be confined to a small group of us
fish-heads. "There is so little collecting going on
anywhere anyway" could be a valid justification for
some people to currently pursue collecting as
entertainment. But there's a deeper philosophical question
that needs answering: what does it mean to remove a fish
from its natural environment?

Shireen wrote:
>> In a conversation with a Forest Service official a
>> few months ago, she mentioned that some biologists
>> are anti-collecting, that they believe that wild
>> animals should be left in the wild

>Martin wrote:
> ... and I have come to the conclusion that the
> "look but don't touch" attitude that is more and
> more prevalent is doing conservationists a disservice.
> If we humans are not allowed to actualy enjoy our
> natural heritage, then why the hell should we care
> about protecting it? The biologists who promote
> this pont of view are certainly not depriving
> themselves - but they feel that if you're not part
> of the club then you shouldn't be allowed to play.

To play the devil's advocate: Why do we need to
possess wild-caught creatures in order to enjoy them?
Are we equating them with baseball cards and stamps?

I had posted the same query to the ACN-l list a few
months ago, and one response I got from a biologist
was that his reason for being against collecting wild
animals was "personal philosophy." So I really don't
think this has anything to do with exclusive academic
"clubs," it's just a different way of thinking about

Shireen said:
>> In a conversation with a Forest Service official a
>> few months ago, she mentioned that some biologists
>> are anti-collecting, that they believe that wild
>> animals should be left in the wild.

Jay wrote:
> If she was talking about fellow Forest Service
> biologists, it's kind of curious, considering that
> National Forests are open to kinds of activities
> like logging, hunting and fishing, all which take
> wild things out of the wild :-)

I really must come to the defense of the Forest
Service scientists (not necessarily the same as FS
policy ...). Over the past few months, I've had
the opportunity to talk to quite a few FS scientists
about a variety of issues. I've come away very
impressed with them. They're down in the trenches
doing excellent science and are deeply concerned
about the same environmental problems many of us
care about. The kind of stereotype you've painted
is really quite unfair.

Jay wrote:
> Would you disagree with this statement:
> "Taking individuals from a healthy wild population
> is alright when it does no harm to the species or
> those individuals, and for some creatures like
> fishes can even provide a better living for those
> individuals."

I don't know. If I tried to answer your question,
I'd have to make assumptions influenced by my own
personal biases: what's my definition of a healthy
wild population? How many other people do I think
are collecting them as well? Do I know enough
about them or have the resources to provide them
with better living conditions? Perhaps my answer
will depend on how much I really want to catch
those gorgeous Tesselated Darters in the Gunpowder

> At the same time anglers and hunters are directly
> killing them for food and sport.

I don't want to get into a debate about hunting
and fishing, except to say that I would not equate
collecting fish for entertainment with hunting/
fishing for food.

> and development, logging, pollution, etc, from
> others are indirectly killing more.

Yes, they are. But let's put those aside and simply
consider the act of a human taking a wild animal
from its natural environment. If it's for food, the
animal is a source of sustenance. If it's for research,
the animal is contributing to our body of knowledge.
If it's for fun, the animal is providing a source
of entertainment. Different people will react to
these justifications in different ways.

> Don't the effects of responsible collecting for
> personal "entertainment" pale in comparison to
> these?

It would depend on how we see ourselves in the
context of nature. Some people keep fish because
they're neat critters. Some others see them as an
indispensible component of a natural ecosystem
and cannot justify removing them for "trivial"

> And don't the possible positive results
> of introducing people to the life beneath the
> surface of the stream in their backyard offer
> hope for a more environmentally-educated
> and ethical public in the future?

In the context of personal collecting for
entertainment? How many people would it take
to visit your fishroom to create an
environmentally-educated and ethical public?

BTW, I'm not advocating any position because
I'm still trying to sort things out in my
own head. These thoughts are just presented as
alternate views for us to think about. If we
are to mature as an organization, we need to
really understand how we feel about wild fish.


Shireen Gonzaga
Baltimore, MD

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