The Wild Harvest Initiative

In Shane Mahoney by RMEF Comments

Do you ever think about where your food comes from? How it was procured or produced? How it made its way to your refrigerator?

Well, every year in the United States an estimated 14 million hunters and 33 million anglers participate in wild protein harvests, and 1.5 million hunters and nearly 4 million anglers do so in Canada. These people know exactly where their food comes from and how it was produced… naturally, that is… and exactly how it got to their freezer, barbeque or frying pan.

While we do not all personally choose to hunt and/or fish, we can certainly all agree that these traditional activities do procure a significant amount of food – healthy, organic, protein-rich food – that is then consumed by humans. And it is not just consumed by those who hunt or fish for it, but also by family, friends, neighbors, and often, since hunters and anglers frequently donate meat and fish to charitable groups, the broader community.

So just how much of the food that is eaten by North Americans comes from recreational hunting and angling? What’s that food worth – nutritionally, economically, and socially?  And what would it cost to replace that food using more industrialized systems? Until recently, no systematic effort had been made to assess the amount and value of wild harvested food.

The Wild Harvest Initiative®, however, is changing this. It will provide empirical answers to these important questions.

What is the Wild Harvest Initiative?

Officially launched by Conservation Visions in 2015 and now well underway, the Wild Harvest Initiative® is a landmark, multi-year project. Founded upon and driven by a diverse partnership of individuals, business interests, conservation NGOs, and government agencies, the project’s mission is to measure and analyze the biomass of wild animal protein harvested by citizens of the United States and Canada. Using data gathered by wildlife management agencies and NGOs the Wild Harvest Initiative® will scientifically assess both nutritional and economic values, while also determining the ecological and financial costs of replacing this wild-harvested food through the expansion of existing agricultural models and domestic livestock production. Food quality and the sustainability and environmental footprint of our modern food production systems are of growing importance in society. As such, there is no doubt that the Wild Harvest Initiative will have relevance to people everywhere who are concerned with safe, healthy food. As such, it will have important implications.

What will it do?

First of all, the Initiative will demonstrate the actual magnitude of annual recreational harvests of fish and wildlife by US and Canadian citizens. It will explore the nutritional value of the wildlife and fish that are harvested annually in terms of human health and basic nutritional requirements, while providing the first economic valuation of this harvest, in real dollars and cents.

The Wild Harvest Initiative® will also showcase the sustainability and low environmental impact of recreational harvests of wild meat and fish. It will increase public awareness of the positive values of wild harvested protein in terms of nutrition, environmental sustainability, economics and food security. By extension, the Initiative will help broaden the general public’s knowledge of the continuing relevance of hunting and angling. It will simultaneously increase public awareness of the importance of wildlife and fish habitat, encouraging greater efforts for conservation and helping to increase the profile of these resources in land use and management decisions.

The Wild Harvest Initiative® will increase public awareness of hunting and angling as effective conservation tools, as well as components of food security, while dispelling the myth that these activities have become irrelevant in modern society. By combining these date with existing information on the economic benefits of hunting and angling the Initiative will remind the general public of the wider social benefits of these activities and of how much greater the cost of wildlife and fish management would become for the average taxpayer, if hunters and anglers did not contribute so significantly to wildlife management.

In doing so, the Wild Harvest Initiative® will provide common ground for discussion and public engagement in wildlife conservation issues, thereby laying the groundwork for wider and more effective coalitions to support wildlife and fish conservation. Such coalitions are critical if we are to develop effective mechanisms to protect our planet’s biodiversity, our wildlife, and our wild places.

If you are interested in learning more about the Wild Harvest Initiative®, please visit our website at conservationvisions.com. If your organization is interested in joining the Wild Harvest Initiative®’s coalition of support, please contact us directly to discuss this.