Goodbye to “Rough Fish”: Paradigm Shift in the Conservation of Native Fishes

Andrew L. Rypel, Parsa Saffarinia, Caryn C. Vaughn, Larry Nesper, Katherine O’Reilly, Christine A. Parisek, Matthew L. Miller, Peter B. Moyle, Nann A. Fangue, Miranda Bell-Tilcock, David Ayers, Solomon R. David

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


While sometimes difficult to admit, perspectives of European and white males have overwhelmingly dominated fisheries science and management in the USA. This dynamic is exemplified by bias against “rough fish”—a pejorative ascribing low-to-zero value for countless native fishes. One product of this bias is that biologists have ironically worked against conservation of diverse fishes for over a century, and these problems persist today. Nearly all U.S. states retain bag limits and other policies that are regressive and encourage overfishing and decline of native species. Multiple lines of evidence point towards the need for a paradigm shift. These include: (1) native species deliver critical ecosystem services; (2) little demonstration that native fish removals deliver intended benefits; (3) many native fishes are long-lived and vulnerable to overfishing and decline; and (4) fisher values and demographics shifting towards native fish conservation. Overall, existing native fish policies are unacceptable and run counter to the public trust doctrine where government agencies manage natural resources for public use. We encourage agencies to revisit their policies regarding native fishes and provide suggestions for developing more holistic, protective, and inclusive conservation policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)605-616
Number of pages12
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Fisheries published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Fisheries Society


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