Aquatic Stewardship Education in Theory and Practice

A Test of Aquatic Education and Stewardship Relationships among Youth

Anthony J. Fedler


Abstract.—The common notion that aquatic education programs, typically consisting of fishing skill development and aquatic ecology units, change student desire to care for and protect aquatic resources (i.e., stewardship responsibility) has been generally accepted for many years. However, in recent years, the value of aquatic education programs has increasingly been questioned primarily because there have been few attempts to test the hypothesized relationships. The objectives of this study were to determine if comprehensive fishing curricula could change student perceptions of skill competency, interest in fishing, and attitudes toward aquatic stewardship. Specifically, the relationship among change in skills and interest in fishing, and aquatic stewardship attitudes was examined. Students in fourth to twelfth grade school physical education programs with fishing units, and Hooked on Fishing – Not on Drugs programs, were the subjects of this research. Results of the study showed that as student skill level increased from “weak” to “very strong,” interest in fishing also increased. Likewise, as skill changed from “worse” to “much better,” interest in fishing increased. The relationship of skills and interest with stewardship attitudes followed this same pattern. Skill level, skill change, and interest were all positively related to stewardship attitudes. These results show clear support for the common notion that teaching fishing skills and aquatic ecology does strengthen student attitudes for protecting aquatic resources.