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Atlantic salmon. Envato image

Increasing the engagement of outdoor recreationists in 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.

We have reached the time in the life of the planet, and humanity’s demand upon it, when every fisherman will have to be a river-keeper, a steward of marine shallows, a watchman on the high seas. We are beyond having to put back what we have taken out. We must put back more than we take out.

Thomas McGuane

Aaron Adams, Ph.D., at a 2013 BTT Symposium held at the International Game Fish Association headquarters in Fort Lauderdale/Dania Beach, Florida. Photo by Skip Clement.

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 fly fishing community–that since outdoor recreation activities like fly fishing 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.

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.

Large school of tarpon off the coast of the Cayman islands

Large school of tarpon off the coast of the Cayman islands. Envato image

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.

As Executive Director of the AFFTA Fisheries Fund, I hear a clarion call for the work that AFFTA and its industry members have played to conserve aquatic resources and need to continue to play. Our success depends on anglers and AFFTA members supporting the work of the Fisheries Fund and its conservation partners.

AFFTA Fisheries Fund Executive Director, Whitney C.Tilt.

Note: this summary is excerpted directly from the paper with minor edits and the omission of the supporting citations.


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