I recently participated in a fish survey project in Downeast Maine. A partnership between Audubon, Trout Unlimited and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the goal was to “identify” previously unknown populations of sea-run brook trout.

I learned that volunteers were allowed to use bait and were doing so, and I was concerned as these waters were home to rare sea-run brook trout and endangered Atlantic salmon.

I also saw pictures of fish that were taken out of the water and placed on the ground for the sole purpose of photographing — including what appeared to be a wild salmon.

I presented data showing the high incidental mortality rate associated with bait fishing — over 30 percent by most accounts. I told the partners that lures and flies could reduce mortality to 4.9 percent and 3.8 percent respectively.

Killing rare and endangered fish just to prove they are there is questionable at best, especially when there are alternatives. Adopting an “artificial lures and flies” policy would be prudent. So would not allowing fish to be laid on the ground. Unfortunately, the partners offered nothing more than a “recommended practices” message on their websites.

I see this as lazy, sloppy, careless, reckless and a bit arrogant. When so-called conservation organizations like Audubon and Trout Unlimited fail to practice sound conservation we all lose — especially the resource.

The brook trout survey project is doing some good work. But the sponsors need to require, not recommend, best-in-class practices in regard to how volunteers handle our rare and endangered salmonids.

Can we afford to lose even one Atlantic salmon? Should we unnecessarily kill any rare sea-run brook trout? Do we need to kill fish just to prove they are there? The answer is no, no and no.

Bob Mallard

Skowhegan