RE: NANFA-- position on educational collecting

Denkhaus, Robert (DenkhaR_at_Ci.Fort-Worth.TX.US)
Wed, 29 Aug 2001 15:46:14 -0500

I have been sitting back watching this exchange and enjoying the give and
take. I've been tempted several times to chime in but have refrained
because I am working on an article for AC (Chris, you know what I am talking
about) and this discussion is in many ways at the heart of it. Without
making a future AC article too redundant, I do want to address one facet of
this issue (clipped below):

> > As I suggested in my original post, perhaps we should encourage
> > more people to get some of their native fish from tank-raised
> > stocks. That will help to reduce the number of fish that are taken
> > from the wild....It's something I'd like to see reflected in
> > the NANFA mission statement.
> An honorable sentiment, to be sure. But would that lead to the
> commercialization of native fishes? And would
> commercialization be a good
> thing or a bad thing?

In my humble opinion, Shireen is not seeing the big picture in her statement
(top portion). Yes, we should encourage the use of tank raised stock for
those that are simply interested in "collecting" fish like stamps and
baseball cards. If their goal is to be able to claim to having a "complete
set" of darters, shiners, sunfish, etc. then this will completely satisfy
them. But what about those folks that use the keeping of native fish as an
opportunity to get out and enjoy the natural world and to bring a piece of
it back home whether it is for education or recreation or even science? We
have all been to the zoo and seen lions but how many of us really know what
a lion's habitat looks like except through a television screen or on the
glossy pages of a magazine? We all know what a wood duck looks like and
what kind of area it might live in. But how many of us know how each
feather gleams with an array of colors under different light conditions?
There are certain levels of nature appreciation that can't be attained
completely in the field or in captivity but through a combination of the
two, a person can develop a certain oneness with nature.

Personally, I consider myself one lucky SOB because in my job I get to see
animals, plants, and every part of nature in both situations. I want to
share these experiences with my children and the other children and adults
that I work with at the Nature Center. I can spout facts and figures all
day long about how beautiful and important these fish are and explain how
vitally important their habitat is or I can take them down to the stream and
let them immerse themselves in nature and gain their own personal connection
to it. If they take home a few red shiners or even a couple darters so that
they can watch them in their home aquarium, then maybe they will support the
next attempt to block a zoning change or something else that will result in
habitat loss. Modern society allows us relatively few opportunties to truly
become connected to nature the way that the old-timers could. Please don't
suggest taking this one opportunity from us.

Regarding Chris' statement (lower portion), commercialization, in my mind,
would definitely be a bad thing. Although I remember a wildlife professor
explain to me that the best way to save a species was to place a dollar
value on it, commercialization carries way to much baggage. Consider the
"native" plant industry. Here in Texas, the native plant movement (which is
intimately tied to xeriscaping, a good thing) has resulted in the "taming"
of many of these wild plants. Once in the nursery it seems that even plants
are subject to domestication and the result is the production of cultivars.
This has also happened in the herp industry which started out the same way
as native fish. Today, it is possible to find virtually any color variant
(read: mutation) of a rat snake but try to find a good old fashioned normal
colored Texas rat snake. Commercialization of native fish will result in
the same situation..."I don't want that multi-colored longear sunfish, give
me that 'snow' longear" will be commonly heard.

We can learn a lot from the mistakes that the herpers have made over the
years. They went commercial and now are being highly regulated in many
areas. They have either intentionally or acceidentally produced a huge
array of mutations which they now actually breed for. And, the herper who
really knows much about the natural habitat of the animals that they keep
are few and far between. However, those few herpers who still venture
afield in search of wild critters (oftentimes just for photography purposes)
are some of the best all-around naturalists that I know.

Just my 2 cents worth.

Rob Denkhaus
Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge

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