Activists want fishing banned in state parks

A national animal rights advocacy group wants Washington state to close its parks to fishing.

In a letter this week, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asked state Parks and Recreation Director Cleve Pinnix to ban fishing in all state parks.

Fishing is not a harmless pastime, the group said.

"Fish have a fully developed central nervous system, which means that they experience pain, stress and suffering as other animals do," Dan Shannon of PETA's Fishing Hurts campaign said in a prepared statement.

In addition to fish killed or fatally injured, lost or discarded fishing gear is the leading cause of life-threatening injuries and premature death in birds, marine mammals and other aquatic animals, the group's statement said.

Pinnix could not be reached for comment Wednesday. His office had not yet received the letter, spokeswoman Thuy Luu-Beams said.

Fishing is allowed at 95 state parks facilities. But fishing limits, license fees and rules are set by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Parks and Recreation cooperates and helps enforce those rules, Luu-Beams said.

Shannon praised the state for its ban on hunting in state parks.

Mark E. Byrne of the Capital City Bass Club said he's not a veterinarian, so he could not comment on whether fish feel pain or stress.

PETA and organizations like it spend money on advertising and do nothing to benefit the animals, Byrne said.

Most of the fish in Washington rivers and lakes are there as the result of money from fishing licenses. The fish are stocked for anglers to catch, he said.

Byrne said his group supports fishing closures for scientific management reasons, but PETA's goal is to end all hunting and fishing.

If hunting and fishing is banned, the money that supports habitat improvements would dry up and "these animals will go away," Byrne said.

The only reason for efforts to recover endangered salmon is their value as game fish, Byrne said.

Fish pulled from the water "suffer from being impaled, thrown, stepped on, or mutilated while alive," Shannon said. "Many die slowly and painfully from suffocation."

The group advocates people changing to a vegetarian diet.

Fish are managed in order to be caught and eaten by people, Byrne said.

PETA also has asked Louisiana, California, North Dakota, Missouri, Minnesota and Michigan state parks departments to ban fishing.

N.S. Nokkentved covers the outdoors for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5445 and at nnokkent@olympia.

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