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vbrach at juno_com: NANFA position paper

--------- Begin forwarded message ----------
From: vbrach at juno_com
To: robertrice at juno_com
Subject: NANFA position paper
Date: Mon, 02 Jun 1997 12:49:58 EDT
Message-ID: <19970602.104657.11535.0.vbrach at juno_com>

Robert:  Finally--here is my revision of the NANFA position psper.  Use
whatever you like of it.  ~Vince~

Currently, all across the continent thousands of individuals are
collecting , rearing, and breeding small numbers of nongame native
fishes in home aquariums.  Unfortunately, their activities are often
shrouded in legal ambiguity and unnecessary regulation, leading to
unpleasant confrontations in the field with conservation officers. 
Although few individuals are ever prosecuted, the keeping of nongame
native fish is illegal in many states due to state restrictions
implemented with an eye to curbing abusive sportfishing practices.  Yet,
the hobby use of common native fishes represents a legitimate
recreational fishery, the existence of which has been largely ignored.
The North American Native Fishes Association (NANFA) is national
volunteer organization that serves as a clearing house for individuals
interested in keeping native fishes for hobby, amateur scientific, and
exhibition purposes.  NANFA members serve the public interest through
stream restoration, species propagation, and public education.  NANFA's
membership, which consists of both fisheries personnel and aquarists,
has consistently worked to balance the needs of collectors with the
welfare of our native fishes and their habitat.  The purpose of this NANFA position paper is to encourage individual state regulatory committees
to adjust existing regulations where necessary to accomodate the needs
of the native fish aquarist, whose expertise in the natural history of
our country's streams, ponds and lakes is often of significant value to
government conservation efforts. 
Consider the following points:
	1) The fish husbandry expertise of the hobby native fish aquarists makes them valuable resources for fisheries personnel and others
involved in stream restoration projects.  Fish born and raised in home
and school aquariums have been used to restore depleted natural
populations, in some cases rescuing species from extinction. 
Propagation techniques developed by NANFA members are currently being
used by state fisheries departments in the states of Tennessee,
Virginia, and Oregon.
	2)  Many native fish collectors maintain extensive field notes on
the water quality and species composition of their stream, pond and lake
collection sites.  These data can be of enormous help in determining the
health of a watershed over both short and long-term and are helpful in
composing environmental impact statements.  
	2) A large number of native fish hobbyists are actively involved
in public education, using their fishkeeping skills in the classroom,
public exhibitions, and various conservation societies.  NANFA has
several members who write articles and columns for newspapers and
nationally-circulated aquarium magazines.  This exposes many thousands
of Americans to important conservation and fisheries issues such as the
dangers of exotic fish release into American waters through baitfish and
aquarium release.
	3) Aquarists as a whole are serious about their hobby, spending
over 1 billion dollars a year in the US alone for fish, supplies, and
literature.  Where regulation is deemed necessary, the financial base exists for the  asssessment of a reasonable collectors license or permit
	4) Most existing state nongame fishing regulations were written
to address commercial baitfish farming and professional scientific collection.  However, these regulations often have the unintentional effect of
discouraging conservation-minded amateurs from compliance, since they
frequently require substantial annual fees and/or complicated
justification statements and paperwork.

NANFA believes that a special noncommercial hobbyist collecting permit,
which would cover the collection and keeping of nonendangered or
threatened nongame native species and could be obtained by anyone able to purchase a regular sportfishing license, would serve both the general
public and the aquarium hobbyist far  better.  A side benefit of such a
licensing program is the opportunity for publicity and enhanced support
of state fisheries programs, since the mere presence of a new license
category promotes public awareness. 
In conclusion, we of NANFA ask that you reevaluate your existing nongame
fisheries regulations and adjust them where necessary to include the
needs of the aquarium hobbyists of your state.  We believe that
encouraging the active, positive involvement of state fisheries agencies
with native fish enthusiasts will promote a greater conservation ethic
and improved outdoor education wherever it is implemented.
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