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Angling as a Path to Conservation Stewardship

The following is a summary of a review paper authored by seven scientists and researchers from Australia, Canada, and the United States, including Aaron Adams, who is a member of AFFTA Fisheries Fund’s Science & Policy Committee.  

The paper brings a thoughtful and analytical approach to describing what many of us know intuitively—that anglers and others who use natural resources are a tremendous asset for the continuing stewardship of natural resources, and one that retains still untapped potential. Unleashing this potential is a primary goal of the AFFTA Fisheries Fund.

“Habitat-dependent outdoor recreation and conservation organizations can enable recreational fishers to contribute to conservation of coastal marine ecosystems,” J.M. Raynal, R. Weeks, R.L. Pressey, A.J. Adams, A. Barnett, S.J. Cooke, and M. Sheaves. Global Ecology and Conservation 24(2020) e01342.

Despite our best efforts biodiversity and associated ecosystem services continue to decline. For example, while protected areas are an essential tool to achieve ecosystem-scale conservation, they often fail to accomplish their goals because their location tends to be biased toward areas that hold little promise for extractive uses, rather than areas of highest conservation value and need. This ultimately limits the efficacy of protected areas as a conservation tool.

Part of the solution advanced by the authors lies in exploring creative alternatives to involve broad segments of the public (e.g., landowners, special interest groups, rights holders, and recreationists) in conservation through sustainable resource use and nurturing a culture that values intact and productive ecosystems, i.e., “stewardship.”

The paper focuses on the potential of energizing “habitat-dependent outdoor recreationists” (HDORs), think recreational anglers, in the task of stewardship. The authors’ logic is well known to the flyfishing community–that since outdoor recreation activities like flyfishing depend upon relatively intact and functional natural ecosystems, HDORs commonly place a high value on natural ecosystems (if only to support the core aims of their activity), hence there are obvious incentives for participants to engage in conservation and stewardship.

It is this potential to harness a growing community of outdoor recreation enthusiasts to achieve ecosystem-scale conservation objectives that the paper explores to nurture pro-environmental attitudes and facilitate stewardship behavior among a broader and broader array of outdoor recreationists. Figure 1 presents a conceptual framework for how outdoor recreation can lead to environmental conservation.

conceptual framework-recreation-conservaiton.jpg

The paper posits that habitat-dependent outdoor recreation conservation organizations, like Trout Unlimited, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, and many, many more (many of which are members of AFFTA), can help to achieve conservation by harnessing recreation enthusiasm to support ecosystem-scale conservation outcomes, focusing on win-win opportunities between resource use and conservation.

 In conclusion, the authors suggest that outdoor recreationists will likely play increasingly important roles in conservation efforts, in response to continued loss of recreational opportunities. To have positive impacts it will be vital for them to be organized and well informed as they attempt a societal shift from consumer to conserver that results in recreation specialization shifts from consumptive to appreciative.


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