Event highlights importance of open rivers and migratory fish
World Fish Migration Day (WFMD), held on May 21, 2016, will bring together more than 1,500 organizations, featuring more than 350 events worldwide.
Organized by the World Fish Migration Foundation, this one day global initiative calls attention to the needs of migratory fish to ensure that more natural river networks remain connected, and those already fragmented can be restored.
Migratory fish such as catfish, sturgeon, eel and salmon support the diets and livelihoods of millions of people worldwide. However, these fish face a number of threats. Physical barriers—including dams, weirs and sluices—are one of the most widespread challenges for these species. In addition to blocking migratory paths, these man-made structures disrupt the natural flow of rivers, which is critical fish spawning. Migratory species depend on open rivers and natural pulses of water to reproduce, feed and complete their life cycles. The main goal of WFMD is to improve the public’s understanding of the importance of migratory fish, the need for healthy rivers, the communities that depend on both, and the options we have to minimize or avoid impacts. WFMD will be marked by events ranging from educational tours of river restoration projects to global inaugurations of “fishways” that help migratory species bypass water infrastructure. Family and educational events will also include celebrations at zoos and aquariums worldwide, drawing and coloring contests, and kayak tours.
Global celebrations will begin in New Zealand and, following the sun, finish on the west coast of North America. Many organizations will open their doors for the public on May 21, offering a view into special work and projects related to fish migration and river restoration. The international headquarters of the World Fish Migration Day will be hosted in Washington D.C. The European headquarter will be hosted at the famous “Afsluitdijk” in the Netherlands. On this event the Dutch partners will open a new fishway at the entrance of the river Rhine and the latest news will be presented around the biggest tidal fishway project of the world, the “Fish Migration River.”
“Over 70% of Europe’s anadromous fish (migrate from the ocean to freshwater) are endangered, 95% of the world’s migratory sawfish are gone, migratory eel populations are in decline, and more recently the migratory fish of major tropical rivers like the Amazon, Congo, and Mekong are under great threat from hydropower development,” said Zeb Hogan, host of the National Geographic Wild television series “Monster Fish” and a plenary speaker at this year’s AFS Annual Meeting in Kansas City. He continued, “To put that threat in context, an estimated 40-70% of food fish in the Mekong are migratory and over 60 million people depend on the Mekong River for their livelihoods and food security. We want people to realize what’s at stake, understand what we’ve lost, and work together to protect and restore populations of these amazing and life sustaining fish.”
Read John Waldman’s thoughts on why we need World Fish Migration Day.