Participation in Hunting, Fishing Down in State

Article excerpt

A vast majority of Americans support hunting and fishing. They just don't necessarily want to participate in either.

That's what some new national statistics seem to indicate.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tracks participation in hunting, fishing and wildlife watching every five years. Preliminary results from its latest Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation, done in 2006, were recently released.

The numbers show that while support for hunting and fishing is on the rise, actual participation is down.

Last year, for example, 5 percent of Americans listed themselves as hunters. That's a drop of 4 percent since 2001.

Participation in fishing dropped by an even greater percentage. There were 12 percent fewer anglers in 2006 than in 2001.

At the same time, though, a survey done by Responsive Management Inc., a Virginia-based firm that deals in conservation issues, revealed that 78 percent of Americans support hunting, while 95 percent support fishing.

"It's kind of an ironic thing, isn't it? As participation declines, acceptance goes up," said Mark Damian Duda, president of Responsive Management.

Hunting and fishing are not in danger of disappearing, Duda said. All told, 13.9 million Americans still hunt and 29 million count themselves as anglers.

"That's a lot of people still," Duda said.

But more and more, conservation experts are coming to understand that the key to preserving the future of hunting and fishing is not only to recruit new participants, but to make sure that the people who don't participate in those activities at least support them, said James Kennamer, senior vice president for conservation programs at the National Wild Turkey Federation.

"Our major goal has to be to keep the 80 percent in the middle who neither hunt nor oppose it think that hunting is OK so long as we do it in a respectful manner and do it according to the principles of fair chase and not glorify the trophy aspect and eat what we kill," Kennamer said. …