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OUTDOOR WORLD: The importance of ethical hunting and fishing

Whether it’s the pursuit of white-tail deer or wetting a line at your favourite honey hole, wildlife ethics should be top of mind for hunters and anglers.
Whether it’s the pursuit of white-tail deer or wetting a line at your favourite honey hole, wildlife ethics should be top of mind for hunters and anglers. - File photo

With most open-water fishing seasons closed, and the deer season over, I always try to spend this time of the year reflecting on the past seasons.

While I enjoy reliving the great hunting and fishing trips of the past year, I also think about the state of fish and game in the region. Every day in the news I hear about new threats to the environment. Hunting and fishing are no exception. Whether the threat comes from changing climate, acid rain or other pressures, they all potentially impact my favourite sports.

With all the pressures on our wildlife, anglers and hunters are realizing the need to protect our resources. This includes conducting ourselves in an ethical manner. I believe ethical anglers and hunters respect wildlife, and the environment they are found in, as a valuable resource. They recognize and value Nova Scotia’s long history of hunting and fishing and, while they know and obey regulations which are in place to protect the hunting and angling resource, they also realize the need for a personal code of ethics or unwritten laws which cover behaviour in the woods and on the water.
Webster’s dictionary defines ethics as: “The system or code of morals of a particular person, religion, group or profession.” Outdoor writer Lee Wulff once defined the difference between games and sports by the fact that games require referees or judges to ensure compliance to the rules while in sports, such as hunting and fishing, we serve as our own referee and must conduct ourselves accordingly.

Fortunately, most hunters and anglers respect regulations on bag limits and gear restrictions, as well as the protection of private property and conduct themselves accordingly. Enforcement programs carried out by provincial and federal enforcement staff reveal very high compliance to regulations throughout the province. 

However, there will always be those who flaunt the law, take more than their share and soil our woods and waterways with their garbage.
Anglers and hunters should respect fish and game as a valuable natural resource and appreciate the environment they are found in by keeping it clean and leaving it in a better condition than when they found it. They understand the need for a personal code of ethics or unwritten law while also knowing, and obeying, regulations which serve to protect the resource.

Fortunately, most outdoors people I know respect fish and game, as well as their habitat. They make it a practice of never leaving any garbage and even pick up the mess other people have left behind, by including a garbage bag in their outdoor kit and packing up any litter they find.
In the case of anglers, they learn the proper technique to allow released fish to survive and ensure quality angling by limiting their catch rather than caching their limit. Anglers should treat all fish in an acceptable manner whether they are retained, released or used as bait. This means that if you are planning to release all your catch, use appropriate gear and play the fish accordingly. If you are practising selective harvest, and decide to retain a fish, dispatch it quickly and store it in a manner which maintains its quality for food.
Through wise use of our natural resources, and the habitats they are found in, we will help ensure future hunters and anglers will be able to discover the joys of being outdoors in Nova Scotia. 

Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.

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