Catch and Release in Marine Recreational Fisheries

Cultural Values and Change: Catch and Release in Alaska’s Sport Fisheries

J. Lyman

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569308.ch5

Catch and release is a culturally inspired ethical response justified by anglers to preserve wild fish populations. In order to understand the reaction of some Alaska Natives to releasing fish we should consider some of the influences on anglers as they developed catch and release. In this paper I will contrast Alaska Native cultural traditions and three elements of the American sporting tradition. I will also discuss the potential for respectful negotiation and offer some avenues for change.

I believe that three elements of western culture led to an acceptance and even reverence for catch and release among fly anglers today. The development of the catch and release ethic in sport fishing required the anthropocentrism of stewardship as a system of behavior toward other living things, a belief in the individual’s right to choose his own ethical course, and a separation from the tradition of the taking of trophies (trophyism) in contests of skill.

Contrasting these cultural influences, Alaska Native cultures see humans as part of the cycle of nature, not superior to it; mistreatment of living things can lead to misfortune for the human community; and, while individualism is valued, the individual boasts at his or her own peril.

Catch and release is rooted in the Christian dogma of man’s dominion over the beast of the air and the fish of the seas. “Be fertile and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea,” –Genesis 1:28