RE: NANFA-- position on educational collecting

Jay DeLong (
Tue, 28 Aug 2001 21:54:28 -0700

> But there's a deeper philosophical question
> that needs answering: what does it mean to remove a fish
> from its natural environment?

Here are others: Is a wild fish in an altered habitat still a wild fish? Is
an exotic or hybrid fish a wild fish? Questions like these can be fun to
ponder but meanwhile I think there are species and habitats in real trouble
from forces greater than fish enthusiasts wanting to watch some fish live,
eat and breed in their aquaria. Most wild fishes kept in home aquaria are
common and fecund species with short life spans in the wild, and in no
danger in the wild. Regular feedings and lack of predators extends their
lives and with the right aquarist can also have other benefits to them and
their species. Perhaps we can all first acknowledge that rare wild fish and
their habitats are valuable and should be preserved in the wild (well, not
all of us, I guess).

> 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'm not sure I understand. See Rob Denkhaus' comments about looking up the
word "collect" in the thesaurus. He immediately recognized that terms like
"amass" and others are not what fish collecting is about in the context of
how this discussion began.

> 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.

You're right. My apology if I offended you, but I was talking about the
resource agency for which they work and the effects they've had on
ecosystems like the northwest temperate rain forest.

> 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"
> reasons.

I think the latter position is a respectable personal decision and those
people should follow their feelings in how they lead their personal lives.
(But I don't know what you mean by "entertainment" and "trivial" actually.)

> > 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?

How about these 2 scenarios: (1) a group of school kids visiting a stream in
their town, dipping a few fish and setting up an aquarium in the classroom,
vs. (2) those same kids going to Petco for some angelfish. The lessons from
#1 go beyond simply keeping fish and into lessons and issues of land use,
habitat, seeing the beauty and diversity in their backyard, personal
responsibilty, and more. They share those feelings and lessons with
friends, then one day with their own kids, and they vote.

> A) What happens if NANFA does a spectacularly effective
> job of spreading the word about how wonderful native
> fish are through their education efforts?

That reminds me (thanks)! The NANFA education grant committee just awarded
grants to two educational programs, one in Arizona and one in North
Carolina-- neither of which involve keeping wild fish :-) I'll try to post
those results soon.

Jay DeLong
Olympia, WA
"If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do
not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts?
To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent
~ Aldo Leopold (1953)

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