NANFA-- tarring with a broad brush

Dave McNeely (
Mon, 12 Aug 2002 08:53:58 -0500

I read with interest the emotional statements concerning littering by fisherfolk and others. The crime of littering is abhorent, I think we all agree. Even worse is the consequent loss of respect for environment on the part of people who observe litter. I have even been guilty at times of thinking that certain parts of our country were lost to those who degrade them, rather than instead trying to think and focus my energy on what I could do to help. Of course, I could only develop such thoughts in a place where degradation has taken place. But I think that I am still doing what I can, through education efforts and personal action, to help rather than hinder.

I doubt that making statements about the ethics of all members of a group of environmental users, like those who fish for sport or food, especially inflamatory statements that claim that "all fisherman are litterers" and challenging an entire list to prove otherwise is helpful. I have known aquarists over the years who were both litterers and who ignored the conservation status of their wild quary. In fact, it is not uncommon for some aquarist to seek out and collect specimens of threatened species for the sake of having them in their own personal aquaria. Ditto scientists and educators who sometimes take advantage of their positions and collectors permits for personal purposes. Some unscrupulous collectors have even been known to sell specimens they've collected, ostensibly for their own pets, to others.

It would be wrong of me to blame all aquarists, and all scientists and educators for doing these things. Most do not. Most are very conscientious about caring for the environment they live in and share with other life forms. Most respect nature and do what they can to take care of it. All my life I have known people who fish, some with a hook and line either for fish to eat or to admire, some with seines and other collecting paraphenalia so that they can take the specimens home or to a laboratory and put them in aquaria. Most members of both groups (and there is large overlap), are ethical. There are organizations of both groups that dedicate themselves to conservation.

We need to all work together for the good of nature, rather than attacking each other willy-nilly because we observe some persons being slobs. What about the slobs? We have several options, including attempts at education, legal action, and so on. And however much I might admire the effort at education that was related concerning a beer bottle, a litterer's backside, and forced clean-up, I long ago gave up the idea that violence is the answer. But I still admire Earth Firster's and Edward Abby for their ideas.


David L. McNeely, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
P.O. Box 1500
Langston University
Langston, OK 73050

Telephone (405) 466-6025
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FAX (405) 466-3271

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