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Chasing Rainbows – with Poison

What follows is a letter to the editor in response to a recent article in Conservation Magazine titled, Chasing Rainbows by Anders Halverson.Lured by a utopian vision of nature, fish and game agencies dropped billions of trout into thousands of lakes. Now, they’re determined to undo the damage they caused,” writes Halverson. The article which appeared recently is an adaptation from his recent book An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World, published by Yale University Press. Find photos and resources related to fish-stocking at

Dear Conservation Magazine,

We found it incredible that Anders Halverson’s detailed article, about rainbow trout introductions and the unintended consequences (Chasing Rainbows), never mentions the true tragedy of this ecological predicament: the rampant poisoning of entire ecosystems to rid them of planted rainbows.

The same flawed logic of single-species management used to plant the rainbows is now being used to remove rainbows, most often with a systemic poison, Rotenone.  Poisoning out non-natives in favor of a preferred native is euphemistically called, native fish restoration.  In fact, in many Western states today rainbows are being simultaneously stocked in some places and poisoned in others.

Unfortunately, Rotenone doesn’t discriminate between non-native fish and native fish.  It doesn’t spare amphibians or insects.  It kills them all and monitoring data show some species never return.  Our company has long espoused the Hippocratic Oath of “first, do no harm” as it applies to ecological restoration.  We need a strong web of organisms on this planet, not just rainbow trout, or cutthroat trout, or yellow-legged frogs.

Protecting and restoring healthy, functioning freshwater streams and wetlands to sustain a high diversity of organisms is a much more effective and economical way of conserving species.  Given half the chance, nature will decide when and where to chase the rainbows.

Read more: or learn more about river, stream and lake poisoning at

[Note: You can check out the original post at THI’s blog,]

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