"Aren’t there already a bunch of environmental organizations out there doing this kind of work?"
Yes and No.
There are non-profit organizations who are devoted to saving fish and fisheries, both in the ocean and in freshwater. Some are "fisheries advocacy" groups, who try to get laws changed to support fisheries. Many great organizations are doing hands-on projects to help individual fisheries, regions, or species. There are also organizations devoted to the preservation and improvement of sport fishing.
All of this is great! Recycled Fish is different in that we take a holistic approach: we engage anglers to steward the environment as a whole, including fisheries. If the "upstream" environment isn’t healthy, our fisheries can’t be healthy.
Fisheries are a "canary in the coal mine" for problems in the broader environment, and right now our fisheries - our lakes, streams and seas and the life in them - are telling us that we’re in trouble.
Who will lead the charge for change? Anglers! People who love the fisheries, and understand them best. Recycled Fish is the force that ties us all together for the common cause.
Some might define us by what we’re NOT:
We’re NOT anti-fishing or anti-hunting, in any way. We are sportsmen who are passionate about the preservation of our sport.
We’re not preservationists as much as we are stewards. Conservation is good, but stewardship implies ownership, and we take ownership of our waters - we take personal responsibility for our impacts. That’s stewardship. Preservation has its place. We are all for set-aside land, and limited use and limited access where appropriate, but conservative harvest and ethical, stewardship-minded interaction with natural and wild places is where our heart is.
We don’t want to be just one more voice in the din. We have no interest in competing with Trout Unlimited, The Wild Fish Conservancy, B.A.S.S. Conservation Team, CCA, or any of the other great organizations doing good work. Rather, we’re working alongside these heroes in the spirit of partnership to establish a lifestyle of stewardship.
We’re not lobbyists. Our corporate charter and the nature of our 501(3)c status greatly limits our involvement in political activity. Recycled Fish is less interested in generating laws (which require expensive enforcement) and more interested in making an impact independent of the laws. What is legal is not always what is ethical. Our impact is through inspiring the ethical approach to everyday living, for the benefit of our fisheries and the anglers who use them.
Legislation is an important part of our society and of natural resource management, but it’s not the part upon which we focus.
We’re not anti-enterprise or anti-commercial. Fishing and outdoor sports are strong economic drivers in North America, and the industries that rely on strong fisheries and healthy fisheries play an important role in stewardship. We’re interested in working together with - not in opposition to - those industries and companies who are passionate about stewardship.
We’re not species, region, or watershed-specific. We’re here to produce and extend an ethic, a lifestyle. Everybody is involved in the same thing, whether fishing trout in the Rockies or catfish in Mississippi.
You might define us by what we’re excited about:
We’re excited about kids fishing, and we want to see more of it. It’s not just about getting kids on the water, it’s about getting kids on the water and teaching them about how to be stewards, and not just consumers, of the resource. For most of us, many of life’s most important lessons were taught by way of a lake or stream.
We’re excited about companies giving back to the resource, and we are particularly pleased by the companies who have been quick in supporting Recycled Fish.
We’re excited about the widespread popularization of catch and release and selective harvest. When we started, these were our primary message. Five years later, it’s just a part of a bigger story, as anglers on the whole understand their impact and role in fisheries management more clearly now.
We’re excited by the communities that have formed through the internet and technology. Regional and national Fishing Forums as well as websites like AnglersChannel.com and AnglingMasters.com give a voice to individual anglers and allow networking, information, and idea sharing like never before. There are risks and pitfalls with this, like many things, but we believe these communities are good as they will help create common ground and rapid spread of the stewardship ethic.
We’re excited that issues like Climate Change or Global Warming, which have been a scientific reality for some time, are now gaining popularization in the main stream, as well as in the sporting community. When magazines like In-Fisherman and BASS Times are doing articles on how Climate Change is affecting fishing, that’s good. Identifying the problem and agreeing that we have a problem is the first step in approaching a solution and how we can implement it.
Most of all, we’re excited by all the awesome organizations doing great work to steward, conserve, and protect our valuable natural resources. We are in the debt of all those who have come before and work every day to see that there are still beautiful places to experience the outdoors. Those organizations aren’t just institutions, they’re groups of real people, outdoors-men and women like you and me, who are sacrificing time to be caretakers.
You might define us by what we’re frustrated by, and where we hope to impact change:
Consumption, especially over-consumption, waste, and abuse, really bum us out. This occurs throughout our culture, including the fishing community. We gotta fix this together, and do what we can do to make up for those who haven’t come around yet.
The leap from denial to despair is frustrating. Too often folks claim that there is not a problem, but upon finally agreeing that a problem exists, say "well, there’s nothing we can do about it anyway." This is a frustration, because both result in - or seek to justify - doing nothing: apathy.
If we never hear these words again, we’ll die smiling: "Oh, I don’t really fish, because I don’t like the taste of fish." Or any variation derived from the thought that fishing equals killing fish. We’re the first to admit that fishing is a blood sport, but if you choose, your angling mortality rate can be very, very low. The sport of fishing is not well understood beyond the angling community, and improving public perception is important to the total picture.
Another frustration is division and blame-casting. The fix is uniting every stakeholder around a common goal, and everyone pitching in to overcome problems together. No easy task, but we’re up for it if you are.
Sportsmen have put in the time, money, and other resources to conserve and protect our natural resources for centuries now. But in the popular consciousness, fishermen aren’t seen as stewards. It’s radical groups who have gained prominence as the ones who are engaged in protecting Earth. We all play a role, but extremism exists at the detriment of its own goal, and certainly to the detriment of our sport.
Our vision is to find a place of agreement with every stakeholder, and within the angling community itself, where we can work collectively and effectively to steward fisheries.
At the end of the day, here’s our deal
Recycled Fish is not a "Christian" organization per se. We don’t market ourselves as such, and we don’t include an evangelical or evangelistic message in what we’re doing at this time. But when Teeg Stouffer founded the organization, it was because he believed it to be his Calling. It is born out of that faith that we are called to steward God’s Creation. This is Biblical Truth - that we humans have been delegated authority over earth and not just to consume at our whimsy, but to lovingly care for it as a gift. We feel that humankind has been a poor caretaker of "God’s Green Earth." If you feel specifically led by God to do something to remedy that at this important time in history, Recycled Fish can identify.