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postion paper

Because I am obsessive sort here is my 55th and (hopefully Final)
revision of the NANFA position paper on amendig laws to support aquarium
rearing and collecting of native fishes....Please drop me a note with
questions comments and input...If and or when this step is over i will
send it to a couple of other folks to act as final
editors........................Let me know what you think...............

                   NANFA POSITION PAPER :
Currently  all  across the continent 1,000's of  individuals
are collecting , rearing and breeding  native fishes in home
Aquariums. Their activities are shrouded in legal ambiguity.
In  many  cases the keeping of common fishes such as darters
and  pygmy sunfishes is technically illegal. This is due  to
state  regulations implemented with a lack of  consideration
of  this  common use of our fisheries resources. While  such
cases  seldom  result  in individuals being  prosecuted  the
possibility does exist. Many individuals in NANFA  have  had
unnecessary field confrontations with conservation  officers
over  these ambiguous regulations which leave interpretation
to  each  individual  conservation officer.  NANFA  (  North
American  Native Fishes Association ) has become a  clearing
house  for individuals interested in keeping native  fishes.
Our  organization balances the needs of collectors  and  our
native  species.  That  role is our foremost  function.  Our
unique membership composition of 1/3 fisheries personnel and
2/3  Aquarists gives us a balanced perspective on the  issue
of  fisheries regulation. The purpose of this position paper
is  to spur individual state regulatory committees to adjust
existing   regulations  where  necessary  to   address   the
collecting  and  rearing of native fishes. We  do  not  seek
anything but reasonable and rational access to our fisheries
resources .

First  and foremost we are all aware that our fishes  are  a
unique  renewable natural resource. We understand  that  the
public  must work together with fisheries agencies to insure
their  preservation. NANFA takes that role seriously . NANFA
is  involved  all across the country in stream  restoration,
endangered species propagation and public education.  We  in
NANFA seek to conserve and learn about our fishes within the
framework  of state regulations. Unfortunately as  has  been
stated  before  many of the regulations  did  not  have  the
Aquarist in mind when they were developed. As such they are,
in   certain   cases   limiting  or  stopping   recreational
collecting.  We strongly believe to impede the  recreational
collector  while  allowing  the  sport  fisherman  or   bait
collector   to   continue  without  similar   restraint   is
irrational and wrong. The Aquarist who keeps Native Fish  is
an invaluable untapped resource to state agencies . Consider
the following points.

1.)  Aquarist  typically  deal in  non-game  species.  Their
expertise in raising and breeding such species makes them  a
valuable   untapped   resource  for   fisheries   personnel.
Propagation  techniques developed by NANFA members  are  all
ready being used by state fisheries departments involved  in
threatened and endangered species propagation in the  states
of  Tennessee, Virginia, and Oregon . It is inevitable  that
such partnerships will increase.

2.)  With  the agency sanctioned involvement of Aquarist  in
native-keeping,   public  education  and   awareness   would
increase. With increased education, public involvement would
increase and yield additional interest in those species  and
their  conservation. For example NANFA has  several  writers
who  typically  write  for  Aquarium  magazines  and  expose
500,000 readers to native species and their care. These  are
people who vote, pay taxes and were largely ignorant of  our
native species.

3.)  Aquarist spend over 1 billion dollars a year in the  US
alone  on  their hobby. It is reasonable that some  of  that
money be spent on local species via a collectors license  or
permit fee.

4.)  With their backgrounds in aquarium propagation Aquarist
would  be excellent partners in stream restoration projects.
Their  skills  could speed up the restoration of  a  damaged
stream.  This could result in returning specimens  to  their
historic  watersheds.  Specimens born  and  raised  in  home
aquariums could be used to restore depleted populations

5.)   There  are more Aquarist in this country than  hunters
and  fisherman  combined. Encouraging their  involvement  in
local species could only benefit those species.

6.)  The  danger  of  introduction of by  Aquarists  of  non
indigenous  species to a new watershed  is  a  real  threat.
NANFA is aware of that and constantly seeks to educate  it's
members  and the public at large about the dangers  of  such
activities.   Unfortunately  such   releases   are   already
occurring ion the largely ignorant public at large.  However
with public awareness and education the incidence should  go
down.  Regulations  can be amended to  include  releases  by
Aquarist.  Such  regulations  exist  already  for  bait/fish
farms. Adding Aquarist should not be difficult.

Scientifically who is more likely to successfully  introduce
a   new  species  to a watershed?  The bait  farm/  stocking
program  with  1,000,000 fish and a 3%  species  by  product
(i.e.  unintended species in the mix) or an Aquarist with  a
few dozen shiners or darters ? Most likely  the bait farm or
the  release by government agencies would allow a successful
establishment  of  a new species. Regulations  already  deal
with  bait\fish  farms and government programs,  it  is  the
individual  who  is the wildcard in the mix. The  individual
will remain a wild card until public education convinces him
to  do  otherwise.  NANFA has always been at  the  forefront
voicing   concern  on  the  issue  of  non  native   species
introduction  and  will remain so in the  future.  Watershed
integrity is one of our major focuses.

7.)  With  existing laws that limit recreational collecting,
those  laws  are in effect encouraging individuals  to  kill
fish while discouraging them from conserving them ( i.e. you
can  collect X amount to use as bait but can not collect for
the home aquarium ). Such regulations are short sighted.
NANFA proposes a simple game species -non game species
system for Aquarist .This would be covered under a regular
fishing license or an additional collecting permit if that
is necessary. For example an individual could collect X
amount of non game species  per day via seine net, minnow
trap, dip net or hook. It is simpler to just name the game
species individually than to name the non game species. In
addition allow legally caught game fish  to be kept in the
home aquarium. It is reasonable to use them against a creel
limit. Special permits would still be necessary to collect
threatened \ endangered or other special concern species.

 Scientific permits have proven to be an ineffective means
of allowing general non game species collecting. By their
very nature they are exclusive. For example a housewife in
Illinois is very unlikely to be able to acquire a scientific
collecting permit so she can collect orangethroat darters.
The paperwork involved in such permits makes them unsuitable
as a means to allow collecting for the home aquarium.
Fisheries personnel must evaluate request for scientific
collectors permits on a case by case basis. The scientific
collecting permit takes a guilty until proven innocent
attitude. The citizen must prove him or her self worth of a
scientific collecting permit. The paperwork for a scientific
collecting permit is just too formidable for the average
citizen or fisheries department to deal with on a large
scale. They are a unnecessary difficulty to the under-
budgeted fisheries departments and their personnel.

In conclusion we ask that you reevaluate existing
regulations and include the needs of the home aquarium
collector in your future plans. The home aquarium /collector
is a valuable untapped resource that is worthy of serious
consideration when evaluating fisheries programs and user
needs. To ignore them would be great disservice to our
native fishes.