Does the Federal Government Smell Fishy? It’s not Fishy Enough.

Brenda Pracheil, a postdoctoral fellow at the UW-Madison Center for Limnology, cradles a paddlefish, a fish that migrates long distances through freshwater systems and that would benefit from “swimways,” aquatic corridors similar to flyways that would work to extend uniform protection to fish that cross state lines and game jurisdictions.
Photo: Dan Kolterman, Flordia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

As the presidential election draws closer and closer, you’ll find a lot of people debating over the role of government. What services should it provide to its people and what should be left to the states, or to no government at all? Of course, there are plenty of things that everyone can agree that the government should provide. At the top of that list is protecting the people, from both external and internal threats. Valid cases can also be made for taking care of the streets, providing a police force and making sure there are firefighters.

I’m going to propose an addition to that list that isn’t currently on the Federal government’s agenda – helping manage the populations of migratory fish.

In a paper recently published by Brenda Pracheil, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Limnology, and her colleagues at the University of Nebraska, a strong case is made for just that. Pracheil highlights the shortcomings of current state-run programs by focusing in on the paddlefish – a fish with uncertain populations and a growing value in the market.

According to the paper, paddlefish tagged in South Dakota have been found all the way in Kentucky – a distance of 1,600 river kilometers travelled by a single fish. So how does it make any sense to have state specific conservation plans?

To highlight, the paddlefish is considered an “at-risk” species in Ohio, where it is illegal to fish either personally or commercially. However, it is not considered threatened in the state of Kentucky, and it is perfectly acceptable for fishermen to catch as many of them as they possible can – an action taken more and more often in order to harvest caviar as the worldwide supply of sturgeon – and their valuable caviar – dwindles at alarming paces.

This brings about the unique situation where if anchored on the Kentucky shore, you can fish all the paddlefish you want. But if you go across to the other side, you suddenly become a criminal.

There is a national organization that attempted to tackle this issue. The Mississippii Interstate Cooperative Resource Association (MICRA) was founded to try to get states to voluntarily work together in these types of instances. However, MICRA is floundering, and there is nothing to take its place.

What’s more, there is already a similar Federal program in place. The federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act created migratory flyways that states had to protect in order to allow migrating birds a path to go south for the winter. And if you think that’s just a bunch of liberal waste, you have those hippies of 1918 to thank.

Pracheil and her colleagues argue that a similar setup should be in place for the nation’s migratory fish. Protected waterways should be created and monitored. This would allow researchers to get an actual idea of the health of a fish species’ population across large areas of land, and to properly manage the rules and regulations concerning them.

If we don’t let the government protect these fish in a smart, intelligent way, who will? The fishermen and businesses who harvest them? If you want me to believe that someone lining their pocket with a potentially endangered species will stop in order to let their numbers recover, good luck. Most people would take as much money as they can and then run, the environmental effects be damned.

And as I mentioned, it’s the Federal government’s responsibility to protect the people from those who would harm the country, including its own greedy, dumbass population.


About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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