WASHINGTON—Tenkara USA, the first company to introduce the tenkara method of fishing to the US, announced this week that it will donate its “1% for the Planet” contributions to Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project.
According to Tenkara USA owner Daniel Galhardo, the SCP’s work to protect backcountry fish and wildlife habitat coincides with the company’s mission, which is to spread the tenkara craft to new anglers who fish and appreciate backcountry mountain streams.
“Much attention is given to the larger rivers, but mountain streams play a huge role in the overall ecosystem,” Galhardo said. “They also happen to be the ideal playground for tenkara, so I want to make sure they are protected.”
Tenkara is an ancient Japanese fly fishing method developed by fishermen in the Japanese Alps centuries ago. For generations, these effective fishermen would chase trout and char in the small mountain streams of Honshu, and sell their catch to nearby villages. The method involves only a long rod, typically 12 feet long, a line and a fly. Modern tenkara rods are made of carbon fiber and are “telescoping” rods that can break down to just over two feet in length.
“Somehow, for hundreds of years before rivers started being dammed in Japan,” Galhardo said, “it had been sustainable for these professional anglers to catch 100 to 200 fish a day during the season using tenkara as their sole method of catching fish.”
However, since virtually all streams and rivers in Japan have been dammed, and water use shifted to purposes deemed more important than wild and native fish, the commercial practice has vanished. Galhardo said the last commercial tenkara fisherman in Japan stopped selling fish about 60 years ago. Nevertheless, the craft has turned into a thriving sport in Japan, with a passionate number of followers. And, in the United States, it’s growing rapidly.
“I’m happy to say that in 2010, the number of tenkara anglers in America doubled,” he said. “And we expect to see more anglers take up the tenkara this year. The more people take up tenkara, the more we’re able to give back, because, under the 1% for the Planet program, our donations are directly in line with our sales.”
Because Tenkara USA imports tenkara rods from abroad, the company is subject to a 10 percent excise tax on equipment used for hunting and fishing. That money goes to fish and game agencies all over the country, so, as Galhardo points out, the additional 1 percent of his company’s total revenues simply add to Tenkara USA’s contributions to habitat protection.
The 1% for the Planet program was started by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. For more information on the program, visit www.onepercentfortheplanet.org. For more information on Tenkara USA, visit www.tenkarausa.com.