Montana Anglers Unite Against Illegal Fish Introductions

ajaxhelperPhoto courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Jim Vashro has some simple, straightforward advice for anyone considering illegally introducing fish into Montana waters: “Don’t do it! You’ll hurt fishing opportunity and, if caught, there will be a hefty price to pay.”

Vashro, who retired after working 31 years as Region One Fisheries Manager with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), has taken on the serious issue of illegal fish introductions as a volunteer board member of the Montana Wildlife Federation (MWF), Montana’s oldest and largest conservation organization. He and David Brooks, the Associate Director of Conservation for Montana Trout Unlimited – an organization working to conserve Montana’s coldwater fisheries and watersheds – have been working together to increase awareness and unite Montana anglers in opposition to the harmful practice of illegal fish introductions.

“It’s the biggest fisheries problem no one knows about,” Vashro says. “There have been nearly 600 documented, illegal fish introductions in about 300 waters all across Montana, and in all but 2 cases, existing fisheries were damaged and no better fishery was created.”

Illegal fish introductions displace existing sportfish and native fish; spread fish diseases; can ruin genetics, and can increase management costs through increases in hatchery plants, fisheries surveys, monitoring and treatments and increased enforcement. That takes funding away from fisheries improvements.

“Illegal fish introductions are done with no biological analysis, no public input and with no regard to the public ownership of and public interest in a fishery,” says David Brooks. “Simply put: they reduce fishing opportunity and increase the cost of fishing licenses.”

Vashro and Brooks are circulating a sign-on letter calling for more law enforcement, stricter fines, and other efforts to stop the damage being done to our fisheries and fishing opportunities. Thus far, 30 organizations across the state have signed on. Among them: Montana Pikemasters, Montana B.A.S.S. Federation Nation, International Federation of Fly Fishers, the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana, and Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Their goal is to sign on every angling club in the state. They are also asking individual anglers and businesses to sign an online pledge supporting their efforts, available here: http://montanawildlife.org/bucketbiology/

“We hope this effort will raise awareness of this serious problem” Vashro says, “and bring more resources to bear for education, prevention and remedying existing failed fisheries.”

How Can You Help? PLEASE sign our online pledge today, and share and encourage others to sign. Click here: http://montanawildlife.org/bucketbiology/