Chicago, Illinois–The demand for fish as food source has outstripped the natural supply in many waters and has created critical problems and a volatile environment for sportfishermen, animal activists and commercial fishermen.
Jim C. Chapralis, editor of The PanAngler, the first newsletter on international sportfishing, believes the situation is so unstable that it requires an immediate response. In the current issue of The PanAngler, he proposes an International Congress of Sportfishing, an umbrella organization that would enable sportfishing groups and anglers to cooperate and focus attention on constructive and responsible solutions.
“Many people do not realize what is happening in our oceans, lakes and rivers,” Chapralis explains. “The fact that the world population is growing by approximately 90 million each year and health conscious consumers are demanding more fish and seafood has resulted in serious shortages that have led to potentially explosive problems.”
For example, swordfish are becoming very rare in our oceans and have disappeared in some waters. But restaurants continue to serve swordfish steaks, because they and their patrons have no idea of the decimated swordfish populations all over the world. In response to the demand, commercial fishermen have developed sophisticated and far-reaching methods for harvesting fish. “Unfortunately, this over-harvesting has severely depleted numerous species besides swordfish in our oceans. When governments issue regulations to protect the environment, commercial fisherman respond angrily, saying that sportfishermen want to prevent them from making a living. We need to find ways of responding to consumer demand for fish without decimating the fish population. Fish farming (or aquaculture) is a bright spot in the gloomy picture.”
On another front, animal rights’ groups, such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and Pisces, “pride themselves on their aggressive, anti-fishing [sportfishing] campaigns and belligerent tactics,” Chapralis says. “These groups want to abolish angling.”
Chapralis points out that sportfishing groups are the real protectors of the environment and through fishing licenses and education, anglers have helped maintain the ecology of many waters. “Catch-and-release (in which anglers catch fish and release them carefully in the water) has caught on not only in the United States but most places in the world because it does not destroy the resource,” he says, “yet the PETA and Pisces people claim that this philosophy is all wrong. The sportfishing community has always been concerned about protecting the environment and about the effects of pollution, particularly acid rain and over-harvesting.”
Despite the staggering number of fishermen throughout the world (an estimated 50 to 60 million in the United States), they are fragmented into hundreds of fishing clubs and specialty angling groups. Because no one organization reflects their numbers or represents the total angling perspective, Jim Chapralis proposes the formation of an umbrella organization, one that might be called the International Congress of Sportfishing (ICS).
“There is obviously power in numbers, and governments and politicians would have to listen,” Chapralis continues. “I visualize ICS as a multi-level organization could bring together anyone connected with sportfishing, including anglers, scientists, outdoor writers, fishing periodicals, tackle manufacturers, fisheries biologists…anyone who is interested in fish, sport fishing and preserving angling for future generations.
“Obviously the hundreds of angling clubs and associations would continue with their agendas and missions. The proposed organization is there to assist whenever needed, and to provide the huge numbers of petitions that could influence a government. It wouldn’t need a lot of money because of the Internet and World Wide Web is a quick, efficient and inclusive way to get started. The brains and the talent in sport fishing are there. We just need to come together, now.”
Chapralis says there are “hundreds of problems that are a threat to sportfishing and year by year we’re losing ground.” He recommends forming the organization in the United States first and then go international, because the problems are global in nature. There are lots of fishing associations around the world already in place and with the WEB we could form a powerful angling federation quickly and inexpensively. This would not have been true just a few years ago.”