Patagonia’s World Trout Initiative
The challenges facing native fish aren’t limited to a single watershed, species or geography, or to salt or fresh water—they are global. Overfishing, introduction of invasive species, destruction of habitat and spawning grounds, man-made pollution and general lack of data are universal factors that endanger native fish, whether they are wild cutthroat in the Rockies, bonefish in the Florida Keys, permit off the Yucatan Peninsula . . . or even Slovenia’s softmouth trout.
That’s why Patagonia created the World Trout Initiative (World Trout), in 2005. Although Patagonia has issued environmental grants to non-profit organizations since 1985, specific support for fish-related advocacy lies in Patagonia’s backing of World Trout and the grassroots efforts it promotes.
To date, World Trout has given more than half a million dollars to varied groups working worldwide on behalf of native fish, and in 2012 $85,000 was divided among several recipients, including the Big Blackfoot Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Willamette Riverkeeper, Trout Conservancy, Coastal Watershed Institute, the National Coalition for Marine Conservation, The River Alliance of Wisconsin, the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, The Quivira Coalition, Rare, the Snake River Fund, Downeast Salmon Federation and the Wild Fish Conservancy.
The program’s showcase effort is its support of the Balkan Trout Restoration Group, which is headquartered in Slovenia. In fact, it was a multi-year donation from Patagonia that allowed a formal organization to be sanctioned through the Department of Animal Science at the University of Ljubljana. The university was instrumental in beginning the recovery effort for softmouth and marble trout, two native species that are in decline due to non-native trout introductions, environmental degradation and overfishing. Joining Patagonia are the Fisheries Institute of Slovenia and the Angling Club of Tolmin, along with scientists, grassroots groups and concerned collaborators from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia-Montenegro, Macedonia and Austria.
“This effort could not be more timely,” said marketing manager Bill Klyn, a 24-year veteran at Patagonia. “Main efforts involve genetic research and ecological studies. A second goal is to build public awareness through outreach and education.
“The Vrlika River softmouth trout were genetically evaluated and found to be a healthy and stable population with relatively high genetic diversity,” he added. “They did not detect any traces of hybridization with brown trout. These are no doubt sensational results and we have already submitted them for publication in a scientific journal.
“Currently,” Klyn added, “[the program] is investigating the habitat of the Vrlika softmouth trout. This investigation aims to define the ecological parameters that provide healthy conditions for these trout. These parameters will then guide conservation efforts in the future.”
What can you look forward to from World Trout in 2013 and how can you participate if you are a member of a conservation organization, a manufacturer or fly shop that supports wild fish restoration and habitat improvement?
“World Trout plans to continue funding for important causes,” said Klyn. “One thing that can help is to have dealer partners become more proactive by using their World Trout T-shirt proceeds to support their local grassroots initiatives.” World Trout raises money in part by selling T-shirts, of which $5 of each sale is donated directly toward these grants. Almost 100,000 shirts have been sold to date.
Patagonia’s World Trout Initiative
by Will Rice