America’s waters provide the lifeblood that sustains our nation’s well-being and are critically important to our society’s social and economic health.
These fresh and salt water treasures—as varied as majestic rivers, sub-tropical coral reefs, mountain streams, coastal estuaries, and desert oases— provide habitat for fish while enhancing our lives in many ways. In addition to providing clean water, recreational fishing opportunities for millions, commercial fisheries for our sustenance and economic health and unrivaled experiences with nature, these waters serve as barometer for our health. These remarkable aquatic systems are key to fish, their ecosystems, and the American communities they support.
Over the last 200 years, America saw a boom in human settlement along its rivers, lakes and coastlines. Our mighty rivers became critical routes for transportation and commerce, fueling our economic progress. The scenic appeal of our oceans and lakes spurred the growth of tourism, drawing tens of millions of people each year to enjoy these national treasures. And a diverse array of fish became common staples of our diet and culture, creating opportunities for recreational and commercial fishing. In fact, the story of fish in America and how our stewardship of this critical resource has evolved over time is the story of America. Unfortunately, our nation’s progress had unforeseen consequences, though, as our waterways were channelized, dammed, dredged, drained, polluted, and otherwise dramatically altered. Once teeming populations of abundant fish and other aquatic species now show drastic declines. Many fisheries no longer exist. In addition, non-native species—introduced intentionally or by accident—have had significant negative impacts on many fish species and the health of aquatic ecosystems and our economy. Ultimately, as we move ahead to confront complex 21st century conservation challenges, we are writing a new chapter in this story and we need your help.