Some frequently asked questions…

We are in a time of change and the current management systems, tools and approaches that were built a long time ago may not be as effective in dealing with today’s challenges as they once were.  There are differences of values among individuals, communities and governments around catch and release. According to recent studies, reports and recent interviews, many First Nations view catch and release as “playing with food” and do not support the practice. Some public anglers also don’t support catch and release, as they believe the sole purpose of fishing should be to put a meal on the table. Other public anglers participate in catch and release as a conservation practice and a way to stay connected with nature. These diverging viewpoints have been documented for over 30 years with no resolution to date.

A public angler is also called a recreational fisher or sport fisher. The term “public angler” is used because the concept of “recreation” and “sport” in fishing is often a source of contention as it carries with it values that don’t always represent the reasons people fish.  Public angler is also used to differentiate from a First Nation subsistence fisher who has an aboriginal right to harvest.  Subsistence fishers are not included in the description of a public angler.

Respect for fish is a value that has come up in many reports and efforts in the past around fish, wildlife and habitat. The concept of respect is the starting point for any meaningful, collaborative discussion.

Regulatory catch and release is different from voluntary catch and release.  Regulatory release focuses on the legal requirement for public anglers to release fish that are a specific size.  They may be too large, too small or fit within a slot of sizes.  This is a management tool to conserve the fishery without limiting opportunity that is used to generally protect prime spawning fish.

Voluntary catch and release refers to public anglers who release fish voluntarily without the legal requirement to do so. Catch and release can also be called live release. Respect for Fish addresses regulatory catch and release.

Respect for Fish is not about shutting down lakes or imposing new regulations.  It is about engaging, understanding, communicating, and educating the public angling community.  There is an on-going, annual, separate regulatory change process facilitated by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board in place that is outside of the scope of this project.  One outcome of our initiative could be voluntary norms, approaches and behaviours that support management objectives, but our focus is not regulatory change.

Respect for Fish is not about promoting catch and release. We recognize that within our current regulatory environment, we often have to release fish.  For that reason, we want to promote best practices around handling in order to ensure the best survival rates possible.

Understanding the values behind the interests, beliefs, statements, and positions is a great place to start. Each angler has personal values; communities, organizations and governments have values as well. If we understand their values, we can begin to make recommendations on how to proceed. If we want Respect for Fish to resonate with people, it needs to align with their values. Otherwise, it has little chance for success.

There is a ton of scientific research on catch and release as it relates to fish physiology and survival. For example, the Carleton University, Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Lab conduct an incredible amount of research on this topic. Respect for Fish will work with the existing science but will also focus on the human dimension. This is where angler segmentation, angler motivations and behaviours, voluntary regulations, co-management approaches, community-based conservation, world-views and perspectives interplay.  Respect for Fish will look at the broader socio-ecological components of this complex system, rather than focus solely on science.

Thus far, Respect for Fish has received positive support from a broad cross-section of individuals and organizations. As it is being discussed and presented, Respect for Fishwill constantly be refined based on feedback and as new information becomes available.  It may not be easy, but I would argue we need to try, as the status quo isn’t working either.

We will soon be seeking public input by hosting focus groups, presentations and meetings, with resources for review. Stay tuned to our website, follow us on social media, or contact us to see how you can participate.  If you are an organization that would like to partner with Respect for Fish, please let us know. This is designed to be a collaborative process.

While this initiative focuses largely on the angling public, we realize non-anglers also value fish and have perspectives on fishing. Therefore, your feedback and perspectives are welcome.

While being a Yukon First Nation subsistence fisher means that regulatory catch and release does not directly affect you, you may still have strong feelings about it, or fish with family or friends who participate in it. Understanding your perspectives and First Nation values would be of great interest.

Feedback, information and results from project participants will be built upon over time and ultimately shared with participants, stakeholders, Governments and funders on this website. Some materials may be confidential and won’t be shared. Respect for Fish may be used as a component of a longer-term academic research project.

At this point we are focusing on the Southern Lakes and specifically the Carcross/Tagish Traditional Territory and the Tagish River. But we are interested in other parts of the Yukon, and expect the results we produce to be relevant Yukon-wide. However, at this point we will focus on the Carcross/Tagish Traditional Territory with significant outreach in Whitehorse, as many people who fish in the southern lakes live there.

Funding for this project comes from the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Trust and the Carcross/Tagish Renewable Resources Council.  It is a collaborative project driven by Dennis Zimmermann, owner of Big Fish Little Fish Consultants, and University of Carleton PhD candidate in the Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Lab.