When I was a kid growing up in Chicago, I learned about fish because fish were Friday dinner options for Catholics who abstained from meat. In my free time, my buddy and I would lash our cane poles to our bikes and ride to Marquette Park, where we fished the park lagoon. One summer day, we visited the local beach on Lake Michigan and encountered the awful stench from windrows of dead alewives. I wondered what happened and why. I asked many questions and got no answers. But I learned there were people who made their living by studying fish. Eureka! I had found my life’s passion.

Each fish may teach us something, and each of us has a role to play in conservation. The message of the book is the principle that “Passionate and persistent people who understand the fish and the place will find a way to create partnerships to conserve valued fish in perpetuity.”

—Don Orth

Goals for This Book

This book was written for a general audience interested in fish, fishing, and conservation. Other books have examined fish and fishing from many perspectives, beyond scientific understandings and traditional efforts to find the elusive maximum sustainable yield.

Fish matter. We struggle to live our lives in ways that respect the many values of fish and respect the perspectives of those with differing values. How we understand, value, and deal with fish depends on our culture and our personal reflections on fishy questions. I regularly question my own actions as a check against my hypocrisy. The place of fish in nature can be envisioned by each of us through our unique values, preferences, and disciplinary perspectives, whether it’s law, philosophy, art, or natural science. Fish are exceedingly diverse and embedded in equally diverse, complex social-ecological systems. In this book, I focus on fish and fishing examples that provide diverse examples for interdisciplinary thinking. Whether we are interested in salmon, bass, cod, or tuna, we must also make connections among social and economic systems and ecological systems.


The book is not intended to be comprehensive. Rather, I selected topics that reflect contemporary understanding of the fish, differing types of fishing and fishers, and the current challenges that face conservationists. The many uses of fish reflect human needs and ingenuity in using fish to solve real human problems. Some island nations obtain most of their animal protein needs from fish. But fish provide so much more in unappreciated or unknown or unexplored benefits. Therefore, fishing may cause harms that are seldom considered. Too often, changes made by humans create unintended harms, reminding us that “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” This is from a 1970 Joni Mitchell tune that became an iconic protest song for environmentalists that choose to fight the destruction of the Earth’s ecosystems by human industrialization.

But conservation is more complex than protesting alone. From a broad range of conservation stories, we are learning about essential conditions that lead to successful conservation and sustainable fishing. These lessons must be learned by all thoughtful people.

About This Book

Few college courses focus on fish conservation, and this book fills this void. I wrote this book so that all types of college students could examine historical and contemporary influences on conservation of fish and engage in deliberative dialogue with others. Open educational resources are particularly well suited to inquiry-based pedagogical teaching. In this approach to teaching, students focus on answering a central question or solving a particular problem. The book provides students with their first thoughtful interaction with the problems and opportunities in fish conservation. Later phases involve clarification, questioning, and exploring actions from different parts of the world. Problem solving, argumentation, and critical thinking processes can be applied to each topic in the book.

Target Audience

The book was developed for college students in general education courses that critically examine dominant and emerging issues in the conservation of fish and management of fishing. In conversations on these topics, we need to develop not only a greater tolerance for each other but also a greater enthusiasm and competence for communicating and arguing. I make no assumptions about the reader’s prior exposure to topics of fish, fishing, ecology, economics, ethics, evolution, and environmental planning. My hope is that the book will inspire some instructors to adapt and use all or parts of the book in their teaching.


We all share responsibilities to fish ethically, live ethically, and build a more ethical society. Ethical reasoning questions may be posed for each case study in this book while encouraging students to develop first-person ethical responsibilities. These cases provide us practice in examining ways of knowing what is true, who is responsible for what, and what should I do about issues about fish.

Parts of This Book

The book begins with two foundational chapters: Fish, Fishing, and Why They Matter and Values Drive Fish Conservation. The next three chapters summarize current understanding about the Sensory Capabilities of Fish, Ethical Reasoning and Conservation Planning, and Pain, Sentience, and Animal Welfare. Appreciation of fish and a little background in ethical reasoning may help us make better decisions when dealing with fish and fishing. After reading these first chapters, the students are prepared to examine issues that emerge in subsequent chapters. Learning more about fish and aquatic habitats is often enhanced by programs at public aquariums, a topic in Public Aquariums and Their Role in Education, Science, and Conservation. Gender and Fishing introduces gender and intersectionality concepts that can be directly applied to fishing and fish conservation.

The details about the fish, the people, and the places provide the context for implementing conservation, whether the fishing is for recreation, subsistence, or commercial purposes. Case histories are help students examine real stories in the management and conservation around the world. These chapters include:

  • Angling and Conservation of Living Fishy Dinosaurs
  • Fly Fishing’s Legacy for Conservation
  • Recreational Fishing and Keep Fish Wet
  • Integrating Fishers in the Management of Arapaima
  • Conserving Tuna : The Most Commercially Valuable Fish on Earth
  • Grouper and Spawning Aggregations
  • Menhaden and Forage Fish Management

The final chapter, Takeaways for Successful Fish Conservation, provides a synthesis of principles highlighted in the book.

Features of This Book

Key elements in each chapter assist with adopting this book for education. All chapters have learning objectives, key takeaways, profile of a fisheries professional, and extensive bibliographic references for those who wish to explore deeper. Frequent use of graphics illustrates and reinforces major concepts. Major terms are hyperlinked to definitions in a glossary. Questions to Ponder encourage the reader to stop and reflect on personal connections to concepts. The profiles in each chapter provide a brief introduction to fisheries specialists who are engage in fish conservation.

The book is provided online and in PDF, as well as in print at vendor cost of production. The book is an open education resource that is licensed with a Creative Commons license CC BY 4.0, the most open license. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon the work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms.

Profiles in Fish Conservation

Each chapter in this book includes a Profile in Fish Conservation. The profiles describe the background, specialized expertise, and activities of scientists and leaders in fish conservation. Collectively the profiles in fish conservation reveal the highly diverse specialties engaged in fish conservation.

People make all the difference in fish conservation. Some cultivate knowledge while others are engaged in policy making. The work of conservation requires informed and engaged citizens, program managers, as well as many specialized scientists. Emerging studies in conservation reveal some key elements for successful conservation programs and practices. Fondness for fish is a common trait among fish biologists, recreational anglers, and aquarists who share a love of the species they pursue, study, or maintain.

But leadership activities in fish conservation may take many forms. Leaders may work with diverse groups, as exemplified by Solomon David, our profile for chapter eight. Or they can dialogue effectively as does our chapter six profile, Karen J. Murchie, in her work with public aquariums. Others build and maintain trust, as does Yvonne Sadovy de Mitcheson, among the many people whose livelihoods depend on grouper fishing. Still others can nurture relationships and partnerships, as demonstrated by chapter nine profile Dan Dauwalter, with numerous trout conservation groups. Finally, the work of chapter four profile, Mimi Lam, encourages communities to learn about alternative solutions for fishing conflicts. Examining fishing through the eyes of people like those profiled in this book, people who work daily to solve overfishing and other conservation problems, reveals a greater complexity than may be immediately apparent within the popular perception of fish in the world and those who study them.

The following Profiles in Fish Conservation showcase the persistence and dedication required to make positive advancements in fish conservation:

  • Chapter 1: Holly K. Kindsvater
  • Chapter 2: Larry Gigliotti
  • Chapter 3: Andrij Z. Horodysky
  • Chapter 4: Mimi E. Lam
  • Chapter 5: Culum Brown
  • Chapter 6: Karen J. Murchie
  • Chapter 7: Danika L. Kleiber
  • Chapter 8: Solomon David
  • Chapter 9: Daniel C. Dauwalter
  • Chapter 10: Sascha Clark Danylchuk and Andy Danylchuk
  • Chapter 11: Leandro Castello
  • Chapter 12: D.G. Webster
  • Chapter 13: Yvonne Sadovy de Mitcheson
  • Chapter 14: Kristen Anstead
  • Chapter 15: Emmanuel A. Frimpong

Each profile is also offered as an audio recording at the end of each chapter. All fifteen profiles as a single episode that can be found here:

To listen to these audio files on Spotify, visit or use the Spotify app to scan the image below.

History of This Book

The textbook reflects my long-standing teaching philosophy, which focuses on principles of respect, intentionality, optimism, and trust (R.I.O.T.). I model respect not only for each other but respect for oneself, one’s path, and one’s discipline. Respect of others encourages open dialogue and encourages trust. Intentionality involves the incorporation of a philosophical or ethical perspective to the hard sciences. I am a strategic optimist, that is someone who sets high expectations and actively avoids thinking about failure. I maintain optimism that we can find common ground as we seek answers to hard questions about the conservation of fish and their habitats. Solutions are elusive and it takes each of us to be persistent and optimistic that satisfactory (or at least better) solutions may be found. Human greed is an unstoppable force to overcome. Finally, I trust the reader to learn and ask questions. We won’t act in conservation unless and until we trust in our own scientific and ethical thinking.

Expected Impact

This textbook will illuminate the world of fish, fishing, and conservation and allow students to engage in contemporary discussion over policy and regulations. True ethics teaching takes place only when the individual student realizes that personal change has taken place. We are all experts in different fields, but we should become at least a “competent amateur” in moral philosophy. Self-awareness is a common struggle for the college student but essential for work in civic society. I use storytelling, videos, and other social media in teaching. Interactive pedagogical approaches assist the student in developing self-authorship and building a new, more purposeful identity as a learner. The reader is asked to engage in self-reflection about the personal obligations to the fish, to the other fishers, and to a larger community via questions to ponder in each chapter.


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Fish, Fishing, and Conservation Copyright © 2023 by Donald J. Orth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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