Multispecies Conservation: Bringing Efficiency to the Science of Native Fish Conservation

, Trout Unlimited | Author(s): Jack E. Williams, Trout Unlimited

Traditional approaches to fish conservation have focused on single species at risk of extinction. This strategy has been costly in terms of recovery programs and intensity of regulatory controls, and has been rather ineffective in the long run. I suggest that a more efficient approach to fish conservation should occur at the community scale and address problems proactively rather than waiting until conservation status of individual species reaches some critical threshold. Several approaches have been suggested for conserving entire freshwater fish communities but many policy and scientific hurdles must be overcome to facilitate their implementation. The linear nature of streams and the networked nature of drainage systems suggest that a fundamentally different approach is necessary for effective conservation of aquatic communities when compared to terrestrial systems. I review community-based approaches to fish conservation and describe strategies and tactics that will be necessary if we are to conserve significant portions of our native aquatic species within a future of growing threats from expanding human populations, more invasive species, and rapid climate change.