Stocking waterways may be hurting ecosystems

EAST HAMPTON, Conn. (WTNH) — For anglers in Connecticut, there’s no better time of year than trout season, and the state is doing everything to keep it that way, stocking waterways with hundreds of thousands of farm-raised fish. One scientist says that could be dangerous to the ecosystems of the waterways.

Professor Doug Thompson is a geologist who studies rivers. He used to be an avid trout fisherman, but stopped 10 years ago.

“I just didn’t want to be part of this industry that supported trout fishing,” said Thompson.

He says the million farm-raised trout stocked in state waterways each year come at the expense of native species, like brook trout.

“I think there’s a lot of pressure put on the native species with the stocking efforts, and I think this puts some species at risk,” Thompson said.

“If we start losing some species because of pressure, we’re going to have problems with the river in general,” he continued.

Professor Thompson teaches at Connecticut College, but what he talks about is far more than academic. There is a lot of money on the table when it comes to fishing, tens of millions of dollars, money the state would not be happy to part with, but Thompson believes rivers should be about more than just getting revenue from anglers.

“I think they should consider other people who interact with the river system who maybe don’t buy licenses and pay fees in that way,” he said.

In response to Thompson’s criticisms and defending the state’s emphasis on fishing, a Department of Energy and Environmental Protection spokesperson called on him “to acknowledge some of the nation’s most passionate and effective conservationists are anglers.”

Thompson says he doesn’t disagree with that, but that better awareness by anglers about what they’re catching will keep the fishing cart from going before the environmental horse.

“If they care about the environment, which I know a lot of anglers do, then I think they have a responsibility to educate themselves on what types of fish they’re catching,” said the professor.

He means catching and releasing the native species, and taking home the farm-raised trout.

“If you can catch a native brook trout, they’re delicious, absolutely delicious, compared to any farm-raised trout,” said veteran angler Barry Newmann, who wasn’t throwing back the native fish he caught.

That’s proof Professor Thompson might be swimming upstream to change a system he says threatens the native ecosystem of Connecticut’s rivers.

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