Chapter 1: Historical Perspectives on Inland Fisheries Management in North America
Christine M. Moffitt, Gary Whelan, and Randy Jackson
The management of inland fisheries and ecosystems is impossible without full appreciation and understanding of the actions and conditions of the past. The material in this chapter provides the reader with a history of the science of and philosophical approaches to inland fisheries management in North America. Contemporary ecosystems are a reflection of historic habitat alterations, fisheries exploitation, and management actions. Therefore, selection of different reference baselines for understanding the historic conditions of populations and ecosystems can lead to various correlations of causative factors (Humphries and Winemiller 2009). The social context of historic fisheries management is also a critical component to understanding and dealing with change. Records of fish, wildlife, landscape management agencies, and historic scientific literature provide important information and insight needed by contemporary managers and scientists. Equally important to understanding our history is recognizing the importance of recording and documenting contemporary management actions for future generations. Steedman et al. (1996) provided a comprehensive review of reasons why fisheries professionals need to understand the historic context of aquatic systems.
• Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat the worst of it.
• Historical information is frequently required during the specification of targets for
• Historical information can be used to modify values and beliefs as they relate to habitat.
• By its very nature, information about natural ecosystem processes needs to be
interpreted in a context that is long term and retrospective.
• Humans are not very good at perceiving slow processes or rare events without the
help of scientists or historians.
• In culture, religion, and science, humans have often preferred to seek out and preserve
stability in the natural world and to filter human perceptions through models grounded
on stability or steady-state dynamics.
• The present is the “history of the future.”