Americans go fishing: but is it good for the environment?

March 19, 2009

As Americans forgo expensive vacations, costly dinners and shopping mall splurges, many are opting instead for the quiet simplicity of fishing, according to the sport fishing industry and reports from bait shops and fishermen.

My colleague Jason Szep has done a report on this which you can read here.

As a life-long angler and fly fishing addict, I have long held that my passion is a green one. Anglers and hunters spend money on license fees that is ploughed into conservation programs. Guide services provide income and employment which gives local communities, tax payers and voters a vested interest in conservation.

There are also organizations like Trout Unlimited  that are dedicated to freshwater conservation and get much of their support from anglers.

But I also know that my hobby has added considerably to my personal “carbon footprint.” As Jason notes in his report, falling gas prices have lured more anglers out on the road. If you fish or hunt, you probably drive — a lot.

Then there are concerns about over harvesting fresh water fish populations, though bag and size limits are aimed at making the sport sustainable. Most fly anglers like myself release wild fish. And commercial fishing in the world’s depleted oceans is clearly a far bigger environmental threat than recreational fishing, be it inland or at sea.

What do you think? Is recreational fishing “green” and sustainable? Or do other factors such as fuel consumption cloud the picture?

(Dan Seguin holds one that didn’t get away. REUTERS/Brian Snyder, March 7, 2009)


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All forms of recreation involve getting there, so the “footprints” would be roughly equal. That’s if “footprints” are relevent at all.

Actually, it is unlikely that humans have the impact they vainly wish they had. If global cooling were the threat, would Al Gore advocate that we all fire up a pile of coal in the back yard?

Posted by E.S.Thompson | Report as abusive

As much as I fish and consider myself an environmentalist, not every fisherman acts like it. If you go by any popular fishing spot, you’re sure to find old beer can, worm containers, discarded fishing line, old bobbers, etc. While I try to take all I came in with, this isn’t always possible. Bobbers get left behind because my line sometimes gets tangled up in submerged vegetation and breaks when I try to free it. Lures get broken off for the same reason or, when a whopper of a fish breaks off my line.
I’ve been trying to minimize my impact but, none the less, seems like this happens at least once every trip. Fish hang out in weed lines and by rock piles and that’s where we all fish.
I’ve seen other fishermen with buckets full of undersized fish. This isn’t a regular occurrence but, it happens.
So, while our licensing fees help our waterways, our habits often do not.
Then, there’s the pick up truck and boat motor factors. Boat motors have been leaving little oil slicks behind boats ever since they were invented and, how many Priuses does it take to pull a boat and trailer.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

Good GOD! Going green is so over played. If we have any care for the planet then let’s get China and the Middle East to start acting properly. I am sick and tired of Americans being labled the sinners of the world. Take your carbon foot print and plant it where the sun don’t shine. Recreational fishing is fishing, where not taking boats out and having a negative imapct on the environment. Don’t you loons realize just how big this planet is?

Posted by Buffalo1022 | Report as abusive