We´ve gotten lots of feedback on our Season One Sneak Peek video. The overwhelming majority of the feedback has been very positive, but some viewers have reacted strongly to the killing of fish in the video. All members of J&FF are very conscious about environmental issues, and since all the fish shown in this video end up dead and eaten, we realize that the video can be misunderstood, and would therefore like to explain the way we think about fishing and killing fish in a larger ecological perspective.
Our view on this can actually be summed up in a single sentence.
We´ll call it “The J&FF Eco Manifesto”.
Here it goes:
We always try to make as little impact on the environment as we possibly can.
From this simple manifesto, it follows that since we travel a lot, we will always try to hike instead of taking a helicopter to remote fishing locations, we will share cars as much as we can, and we will fly as little as possible. It also follows that we always try to leave a campsite the way we found it, clean up after others if necessary, and so on.
OK. But then the reader might ask: How does this justify killing fish?
The answer to this question is equally simple: because sometimes killing and eating a fish is better for the environment than releasing it.
This might sound very strange to the reader, so let me use a specific example to explain what I mean:
On the Season One Sneak Peek video, we are seen catching, killing and eating several good-sized grayling somewhere in arctic Scandinavia.
However, what you cannot see in the video is that this is a very remote place, as far from sivilization as you can get in Scandinavia. There is no way we could have carried all the food we would need to survive for a week up there on top of our tents, sleeping bags, fishing gear, clothes and camera gear. On expeditions like this, we simply need to kill a few fish to feed ourselves. The alternative would have been to go by helicopter, which obviously isn´t good for the environment (and besides, we´re getting fat enough as it is). And even if we could carry all the food we needed on our backs, eating beef, chicken or farmed fish would certainly have made a far greater impact on the environment than killing and eating a few grayling.
So in this sense, from a larger perspective, it was arguably better for the environment to kill and eat a few fish on the spot than to release all of them.
From a local perspective, things do get a little bit more complicated. In order to explain how killing these fish is compatible with our manifesto from a local point of view, we need some more facts about this specific eco system:
Firstly, because of its remoteness, the fishing pressure in this mountain valley is close to zero. Very few people pass through this valley in a year. And since the system contains 90% grayling, and most locals consider the grayling to be an inferior fish, there are very few fishermen trying their luck there. My best guess, based on the total lack of wear on the fragile tundra terrain, would be that less than 15 people fish this particular water system in an average summer, and most of these just try a cast or two as they hike through the valley.
Second, the lakes are relatively large, shallow and highly productive, with strong populations of freshwater shrimp or scud (Gammarus), as well as other aquatic insects, and this makes the surprisingly dense fish population grow fast and to a good size. In plain words: The place is huge, it´s packed with big grayling, and there are no fishermen there.
Based on these factors, I think that our impact on this water system was very small indeed, and I do not think that our killing of around 15 medium-sized grayling during our six-day stay – spread out over the whole water system – did any harm at all.
Some additional points:
– We always give a lot of thought to how many fish we can take out of a water system without making a harmful impact on the population, and also to what size our food fish should be. All water systems are different, and as fishermen, we have to adjust to the local conditions. Some water systems are highly productive, and some are really barren. Some have high fishing pressure, some aren´t fished at all. Some systems have very thin populations that shouldn´t be fished much – if at all. And some are overpopulated with tiny, dwarfed trout and/or arctic char, and should actually be fished a lot harder than they are today. The latter is very common in large parts of Norway due to lack of predators like pike and because the spawning conditions are too good. There are simply too many trout in the water system, so they starve and never grow big. In systems like these, it makes sense to kill as many small trout as possible, and let the few bigger fish that excist live.
– We would of course never kill a single fish where we think the population could not take it. Personally, I would consider not fishing at all where the population is that threatened.
– As people who have followed us for a while will have noticed, we do catch and release fish quite frequently. On the trips seen in this video, we probably released more than 90 % of the fish we caught, including all the largest specimens (biggest one 62,5 cm).
– Fish is tasty, and good for you! Farmed fish is such a waste of resources, and commercial fishing can be a really ugly buisness. It makes a lot more sense to fish your own food – on places where this is possible without harming the fish population, mind you.
– We try to live by our simple manifesto as much as we can, but nobody´s perfect, and we´re certainly pretty far from perfect! So sometimes we break our own rule, for example by taking a helicopter because we don´t have time to hike. And in retrospect, we could have let the 3-pound trout in the Sneak Peek-film live and tried for a smaller trout instead. This river is long, wide and productive, but the big trout in this particular river experience substantially higher fishing pressure than the grayling up in the mountains. Well, we needed a fish for the cooking session that had to be filmed later that day, and the hatch was definitely over, so our chances of catching another trout were slim – especially since we were dead tired from the intense touring at the time. We caught and released several smaller fish earlier that day, so this really comes down to bad planning. And besides, a 3-pounder really isn´t a big trout in that river…
I hope this post was helpful in explaining some of our views on the ecology of fishing, and wish you all the best of luck with the forthcoming fishing season.
Or as we say in Norway: Skitt fiske!
PS! I have chosen not to go into the etchical/moral aspects of catch & release at all, since that debate is always going on at some fishing forum. And that debate is a dead end anyway – it always ends with people calling eachother names…