Aquatic Stewardship Education in Theory and Practice

Does Angling or Boating Improve the Stewardship Ethic of Participants?

Steve L. McMullin, Karen S. Hockett, and Julie A. McClafferty


Abstract.—We conducted a mail survey of U.S. citizens to test numerous indicators of natural resource stewardship and the frequently stated hypothesis that participation in angling or boating increases stewardship behavior. Due to the large sample size of our survey, nearly all indicators of stewardship yielded significant relationships with measures of stewardship behaviors. However, five indicators stood out from the rest: ownership, sense of personal responsibility/locus of control, verbal commitment to the environment, awareness of the consequences of human actions for the environment, and environmental concern (as measured with a variation of the New Environmental Paradigm). Among the five indicators that appeared to be most significantly related to activism behaviors, active (fished or boated within the last 5 years) and lapsed (fished or boated at some point during their lives but not in the last 5 years) participants were more likely than nonparticipants (never fished or boated) to rate highly in three: sense of ownership, sense of personal responsibility/locus of control, and awareness of consequences of human actions. Survey findings suggest that the relationship between participation in angling or boating and stewardship behavior is complex and that simply recruiting new participants does not guarantee overall improvement in stewardship behavior. We suggest that recruitment and education efforts should strive to enhance the sense of personal ownership among all citizens that currently is more prevalent among anglers and boaters. We also suggest that educators and managers exercise caution in touting the link between stewardship and participation in boating and/or angling.