Does electrocuting fish restore a ‘natural’ aquatic environment?

Hundreds of years ago we introduced a wide array of fish species into lakes and rivers in Montana for fishing.  These fish, otherwise known as invasive species have thrived so much that the native species, such as West Cut Throats have suffered a decline in number.

This has resulted in aquatic systems not being truly ‘natural’. The big question here is, should we intervene once more to undo our original mistake?

By restoring the system to its ‘natural’  state we are interfering. While this time it has scientific findings behind it and is being done to regain a native environment it feels as if we are playing God. Particularly when the way to restore native species is to electrocute all the fish in the stream.

I have spent the past three days camping, hiking and electrocuting fish in Brays Canyon enabling us to collect them, measure them and eventually reintroduce the native ones back into the system. I killed any invasive fish species we came across in the most humane way with my thumb and forefinger. This is one of many projects done in order to regain a wild or natural environment.

What do you think? Is it our duty to undo the mess we have made historically? And is it cruel to kill invasive species?

The fact that we recognise our historic wrongdoings has to be a positive, but the management strategy in combating these issues is highly controversial.

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Nonetheless this project has taken me to a beautiful part of the world and I have met some fascinating people on the way.

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2 responses to “Does electrocuting fish restore a ‘natural’ aquatic environment?

  1. Who’s to say? I guess time will tell. It would be interesting to set up some trials where the non-natives are completely removed from some catchments while they are left in others and monitor for any changes to the river ecosystem over the following years. May be this is been done already… or indeed is what you are doing here? My guess is that it will depend on numbers and habits of the non-natives in comparison to the native fish species. Are there any local rivers where the non-natives haven’t been introduced or established themselves from other rivers? These might be a suitable control. Anyway, keep up the good work and keep blogging.

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    • So far the projects involve getting rid of all fish (by electro fishing or poisoning) and then reintroducing only the native fish. It would indeed be interesting to keep the non natives in some streams as a control. I think this would show there to be little change in the stream dynamics (maybe this is why the forest service haven’t done it). They need as much scientific backing to their project as possible to get the funding.

      It would also be good to see the effects of poisoning streams on all aspects of the ecosystem. The poison is claimed to have an insignificant affect. However, I am unsure. All these techniques, to me appear to be manipulating the environment so much so that we exert so much pressure on the system, that there is no way it can gain a wilderness stature.

      I am unsure if there are any streams with solely natives, I shall do some investigating next week.

      Thank you for your comment, will do!

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