Montana fishing groups have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the practice of illegal fish introduction. The following is a press release from the Montana Wildlife Federation:
Montana Anglers Unite Against Illegal Fish Introductions
The Montana Wildlife Federation (MWF) and Montana Trout Unlimited (TU) have launched a collaborative effort to increase awareness and unite Montana anglers in opposition to the harmful practice of illegal fish introductions.
“It’s the biggest fisheries problem no one knows about,” says Jim Vashro, a retired state fisheries manager and volunteer board member for MWF. “There have been nearly 600 documented, illegal fish introductions in about 300 waters all across Montana, and in all but two cases, existing fisheries were damaged and no better fishery was created.”
Illegal fish introductions displace existing sportfish and native fish; spread fish diseases; can ruin genetics, and can increase management costs through increases in hatchery plants, fisheries surveys, monitoring and treatments and increased enforcement. That takes funding away from fisheries improvements.
“These illegal introductions are done with no biological analysis, no public input and with no regard to the public ownership of and public interest in a fishery,” says David Brooks, the Associate Director of Conservation for Montana Trout Unlimited. “Simply put: they reduce fishing opportunity and increase the cost of fishing licenses.”
Vashro and Brooks are circulating a sign-on letter calling for more awareness, more law enforcement, stricter fines, and other efforts to stop the damage being done to our fisheries and fishing opportunities. Thus far, 30 organizations from across the state have signed on. Among them: Montana Pikemasters, Montana B.A.S.S. Federation Nation, International Federation of Fly Fishers, the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana, and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Vashro and Brooks hope to sign on every angling club in the state. They are also asking individual anglers and businesses to sign an online pledge of support at: http://montanawildlife.org/bucketbiology/
"We hope this effort will raise awareness of this serious problem" Vashro says, "and bring more resources to bear for education, prevention and remedying existing failed fisheries."