Over the past year, visitors to the EcoBlu blog have been reading about the “Native Fish Restoration” projects ongoing in Montana and elsewhere. These controversial projects involve clear-cutting the aquatic ecosystem with poison and then restocking with a fish monoculture. Increasingly, government agencies and conservation groups are promoting the 60-year-old practice as necessary to avoid species extinction at the hands of so-called “invasive” or “non-native” fish.
It is widely known that habitat destruction is the single greatest factor contributing to the current global species extinction problem (Pimm & Raven, 2000, pp. 843-845), NOT threats by invasive species. Habitat loss is due to growth of human populations including increased impacts resulting from agriculture and development.
Habitat destruction is “the process in which natural habitat is rendered functionally unable to support the species present. In this process, the organisms which previously used the site are displaced or destroyed, reducing biodiversity.” If this sounds like a description for many ”native fish restoration” management plans, it is.
The crude and outdated technique of poisoning waterways and stocking fish from hatcheries further damages these critical at-risk native habitats. And while the technical simplicity of these “native fish restoration plans” may appear initially attractive, the poisoning/stocking efforts do not reduce habitat loss, do not reduce habitat damage, and do not diminish habitat fragmentation.
Clearly, our priority should be to do what was recommended by scientists writing in the Journal of Wildlife Management in 1997: “Conservation efforts should be aimed foremost at stopping habitat loss and at habitat restoration.” This solid and implementable native species conservation recommendation promotes biodiversity (and ecosystem integrity, resiliency and stability) ultimately helping to prevent extinctions.Tweet