January 26, 2009

The Politics of Trout Removal - A Global Phenomenon

I've written a fair bit lately about controversies surrounding trout stocking and trout removal. A theme running through many of these posts is that the politics of trout management strike an emotional chord with many members of the angling community, and sometimes those emotional responses get in the way of science-based management decisions. Although I've focused my posts on this topic specifically on the Sierra Nevada, an email I received recently made it clear that the situation we face in the Sierra Nevada is not unique. Geoff Heard is a PhD student in the Department of Zoology at La Trobe University in Victoria, Australia and had this to say:
Dear Roland:

I have just been reading your Frog Blogs, and felt I must drop you a line. I have been aware of your work with Rana muscosa for sometime - I'm undertaking a PhD on the metapopulation dynamics of the endangered growling grass frog in Melbourne, Australia, and specifically, the impacts of urbanization on those dynamics.

Growling grass frogs like it warm, so they generally don't mix with trout, and thankfully that means I don't butt heads with the trout lobby. However, your situation with Rana is remarkably similar to one here in Victoria. Our case involves the spotted tree frog (Litoria spenceri), an endangered species that lives in mountain streams and has been shown to be very sensitive to trout predation (and suffering from the additive effect of chytridiomycosis). We had a concerted push a few years back to eradicate trout at two remnant L. spenceri sites, but the proposal was terminated by the trout lobby. Just as you describe, a few particularly vocal folk created an uprising by the fishing community, despite the fact that the proposal involved only small sections of two of the state's hundreds of trout streams, and that these sections are basically unfishable (narrow streams, densely vegetated, and containing only small fish). It created so much heat that the relevant official shelved the proposal and gagged the relevant scientists. And the spotted tree frog? Its decline continues to be monitored, but the most easily implemented and arguably most effective recovery action we know of remains off-limits.

So I wanted to congratulate on your great work, and encourage you to push on. Your work will not only benefit Rana, but also adds valuable weight to calls here in Oz for the case of the spotted tree frog versus trout to receive another (hopefully fairer) hearing.


Ah, the politics of trout removal.... It is good to know that we are not alone here in California in our interest in maintaining populations of nonnative trout in virtually every habitat where they could possibly survive regardless of the consequences to all of those useless native species. Sigh.

Back to The Mountain Yellow-legged Frog Site.

1 comment:

  1. Trout are often introduced in the name of conservation, using conservation funds. Their unintended consequences - decimation of stream galaxids and minnows and amphibians go unnoticed by anglers who regard the stream as empty. The the USA in 2004 $160 million was spent in ESA money on chinook salmon - that are a globally secure species and about $220K on Rana muscosa?