Tracking Fisheries Through Time: The American Fisheries Society as a Historical Lens

Lake Whitefish egg take on the Detroit River by the Michigan Fish Commission, circa 1885. Courtesy: Michigan State Archives.

By Gary E. Whelan, Diana M. Day, John M. Casselman, Laura Gephart, Carolyn J. Hall, James Lichatowich, Michael Matylewich, Leandro Miranda, Leanne Roulson, Patrick D. Shirey, Norman Mercado-Silva, John Waldman, and Drue Winters

The historical context of current environmental conditions offers vital guidance to North American fisheries professionals as they strive to develop effective management plans and policies. Through this retrospective we highlight the remarkable historic fisheries resources and reasons for establishing public fisheries agencies and the American Fisheries Society (AFS). Through a review of primary historical documents and literature for North America, this paper identifies factors contributing to the founding of AFS and public fish commissions; shows how selected resource issues evolved; and documents how and why selected fisheries and aquatic habitat policies changed in response to those issues. Overexploitation, landscape‐scale habitat alterations, mining, and dams were the causative agents for emergence of fisheries agencies and AFS, and these factors remain relevant today. Beginning in the 1960s, after 100 years of policy inaction, North Americans grew tired of degraded waters and fisheries and forced policy changes that have directly and indirectly affected the fisheries we manage today. The historical events and resulting corrective legislation are taken for granted by those unaware that AFS has actively participated in developing policies to address these environmental harms. Further, AFS continues to play a vital role in identifying key issues, providing conduits for information to cope with impairments, and advocating for policies to conserve intact habitats and improve degraded systems. The struggles documented in this paper offer crucial lessons as we continue to be challenged by legacy resource issues and face emerging environmental stressors, such as climate change, as well as regression in long‐standing environmental protection policies….Read more in the August 2020 issue of Fisheries.
Recent Posts