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Can Cause Marketing Start a Cultural Meme?

The King Salmon or Chinook is the largest species in the Pacific salmon family and in some parts of Alaska the population is weak, leading to restrictions on sport and commercial fishing in some areas of the Kenai River fishery, for instance.

A fishing lodge on the Kenai Peninsula called Alaska Hooksetters thinks that might be partly a marketing problem, and so it just started promoting a catch and release approach to King Salmon called “Spawn On” that features its own logo and Facebook page.

Catch and release is common among sport fisherman going after trout in the U.S. Catch and release means that when the fish is landed the fisherman removes the hook… usually a barbless hook… and allows the fish to swim free. Most, but not all, fish survive the ordeal.

I’ve got a brother-in-law who spends maybe a quarter of his weekends every year fly-fishing the blue-ribbon trout rivers of the Western United States. I mention this because he and his fly-fishing buddies are strict catch and release fishermen. I’ll bet he hasn’t tasted trout in 20 years. In other words, there is a strong ethic of catch and release among fly fishermen.

But Wikipedia says this is a relatively recent development. In Scotland, catch and release has been practiced for just a little more than 100 years. Indeed, some rivers there are exclusively catch and release. That’s true of some rivers in the United States as well. But the catch and release ethic in the U.S. only dates to 1952, when it was introduced as a management tool in the state of Michigan.

Can the catch and release ethic catch on among King Salmon sport fisherman in the Kenai with a logo? Certainly the campaign has its work cut out for it. King Salmon is especially prized among sport fisherman because of its size and fight. They can weigh more than 100 ponds and be almost 6’ long. King salmon is also, I might add, quite delicious. And the men and women that come to Kenai to fish aren’t necessarily the crunchy types that practice strict catch and release in Montana or Wyoming.

Moreover, there’s a natural kind of push and pull in Alaska between the sport salmon fishermen and the commercial salmon fishermen. The sport fisherman might naturally feel like they’re carrying most of the burden of protecting fragile King salmon populations by practicing catch and release.

Finally, it seems to me that this is more of persuasion problem than a marketing problem;. a question of making a meme in parts of America a behavior in the Kenai. Marketing… especially marketing on the cheap as is the case here… can reinforce something like that. But it can’t often start the meme. 

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