Varied Reasons for Stocking Fish

Obviously, fish stocking is a tool for fisheries managements. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) reports that numbers of fish spawned by wild populations typically outnumber those produced and stocked by the state’s hatcheries. Increasing the number of fish in state waters is not, however, the primary reason for fish stocking.   

TPWD maintains three saltwater and five freshwater hatcheries, and stocks approximately 40 million fish in public lakes, ponds, and saltwater bays each year. Seven specific goals are cited as reasons for maintaining a stocking program in the state of Texas. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, they are:

1. Starting populations in new or renovated state waters

                2. Supplementing fish populations with insufficient natural reproduction to meet demand

                3. Contributing to fish diversity by introducing other species into specific areas in the state

4. Restoring those fish populations that have been affected or eliminated by natural or   

    manmade catastrophe

5. Assuring there are catchable-size fish for educational activities and community fishing lakes

6. Enhancing the genetic make-up of a population (for example, Florida Largemouth Bass)

7. Taking advantage of improved habitat resulting from increased water level or new vegetation.

There are scientific principles involved in creating fish stocking ponds, and adherence to those principles is necessary to maintain the proper environment for hatchlings and fry to develop into healthy fingerlings.  Simply adding small fish to an existing natural pond or releasing them into a river or stream is not likely to be successful, according to fish management authorities.

Pros and Cons of Fish Stocking

Conservation organizations noted in 2021 that approximately one third of freshwater fish species throughout the world were at risk for extinction. Global assessments have estimated an 84% decline in populations from 1970 to 2014. But, by 2030, the goal of protecting 30% of the earth’s surfaces, including freshwater habitat, may reverse a trend of further extinctions.

In North America, according to a pan-North American study, the main cause of the endangerment of about four in ten freshwater fish is human pollution.

Questions remain about the practice of stocking both native species and other varieties into waterways across the United States. It is, however, a practice with at least a century-old history in many states. Although there are some vocal opponents of the practice, particularly of massive wilderness stocking programs in western states, the benefits that accrue to various governmental jurisdictions in the form of tourism and income from fishing licenses are deemed worth the effort and the expense. Arguments on both sides abound, but in general, modern fish stocking practices are implemented in biologically-sound ways by state fish and wildlife management authorities and carried out with an emphasis on preservation of natural environments and ecosystems to the highest extent possible.

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