Why a Congress?

When we first proposed the idea of a gathering of people across the world to celebrate trout, one of our steering committee members, Steve Born, rightly pointed out that Trout Unlimited had tried to build support for an international group that would join together trout conservation groups all over the world to have a much larger voice for trout conservation.   Unprecedented human population growth, rapidlychanging climate, and resource exploitation have already contributed to dramatic declines in trout populations worldwide and will undoubtedly influence their future survival.  As we’ve moved forward, we believe that providing an international voice is the most important role for a congress.   As we continue to see expanded mining proposals in Alaska and Canada, along with tragic failures of existing mines, hydroelectric proposals in national parks in the Balkans, the expansion of cattle grazing in New Zealand to support expanded milk production, and other threats to cold water it makes sense to join together to make our voices heard.   

Trout are present on every continent in the world except Antarctica.  They are native in much of the northern hemisphere and have been widely introduced in the south. Probably no other fish, with the possible exception of salmon has inspired such a passionate following of artists, writers, anglers, scientists, and the public.  For those of us who have spent our lives associated with trout in some way, they’ve managed to capture our imagination.  Whether they are native or introduced they play an important role in ecosystems worldwide and are an integral part of the socioeconomic fabric of many local communities, native peoples, and countries.  These iconic species draw a passionate following from people from all walks of life who love trout and whose livelihoods depend on trout and their healthy ecosystems.  The economic return from these species contributes billions of dollars to people and communities around the globe.   In this Congress, we’ll look at trout from a variety of aspects; the socioeconomic contributions of trout world wide and the unique role that trout play in many communities, the role of trout in education and how teachers use trout and their habitats to raise environmental awareness, the art and literature that surround the world of trout, and the science of trout - what have we learned about their life histories and their habitat, and finally how, in spite of an increasingly warm and uncertain future, we can all ensure this remarkable group of fishes continues to provide the values and benefits that have inspired such a passionate following.For almost half a century, Trout Unlimited (US) has experienced growth and success in advocating for and protecting/conserving coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.  As the world has grown smaller and more interconnected, environmental management and conservation has taken on international dimensions, and is increasingly being recognized as a global challenge.  This changing perspective applies to coldwater fisheries and watershed conservation, presenting opportunities for international cooperation.  TU (US) has had established working relationships with TU (Canada) on matters of shared interest such as the Pacific Salmon Treaty, Atlantic salmon conservation and Great Lakes fisheries management.  During the 1990s, several efforts were undertaken to expand Trout Unlimited activities in other salmonid-rich countries, including various kinds of affiliations with New Zealand, a few European countries, and Russia. 

For a number of reasons, these efforts were not sustained.  Reasons for not institutionalizing these initiatives were varied, but included:  overly grandiose views of what might be accomplished; the potential for overextending TU (US) resources at a time when the organization was going through major programmatic and structural change; an inadequate assessment of the needs and expectations of counterpart groups in other countries, aside from a shared interest in fishing; and changing personalities associated with the ventures.  As exposure to and awareness of the many important coldwater fisheries around the world has grown, now is the time to pragmatically  reconsider opportunities for international linkages and cooperation in the shared goal of protecting and conserving the world’s salmonids and their watersheds.