World Fish Migration Day 2016

webbanner 2016

by John Waldman

A poor idea travels nowhere but a great notion has wings or, in the case of World Fish Migration Day, fins!

Launched in 2014 by a broad coalition of partners and sponsors including the World Fish Migration Foundation, this ever growing one-day global celebration aims to raise public awareness of the importance of open rivers and migratory fish. On World Fish Migration Day organizations conduct their own proceedings around the common theme of connecting fish, rivers, and people. On May 21st, 2016, more than 350 events across six continents will acknowledge the ecological and sociological significance of open rivers to allow unrestricted migrations of diadromous fishes such as salmon, sturgeon, shads, and eels, and of itinerant freshwater species.

Migratory fish that occur in free flowing rivers prosper because they take advantage of multiple habitats over their life cycles (Waldman et al. 2016). Today, the rivers of the world remain fierce battlegrounds between their roles as critical components of natural ecologies and as commodities for human usages such as conduits for waste disposal and sources of water. But foremost among impairments to rivers are dams—many of which linger in the U.S. as no longer useful remnants of the industrial revolution but which continue to cause enormous damage by blocking or hindering fish migrations. Moreover, as the dam removal movement slowly gains in the U.S., worldwide, dam construction projects that threaten environmental integrity are being initiated for major rivers such as the Mekong, Amazon, Congo, and Himalayan flowages, among many others. Mongolia, for instance, has planned hydroelectric dams for the Selenga that will sever the lengthy and still unhindered connection between two of the world’s greatest lakes, Hovsgol and Baikal.

If a giant wall blocked bird migrations society wouldn’t stand for it. But dams do the same for fishes, just less visibly. World Fish Migration Day helps make this transparent.

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Waldman, J., K. A. Wilson, M. Mather, and N. P. Snyder.  2016.  A resilience approach can improve anadromous fish restoration. Fisheries 41(3):117-126.

John Waldman is professor of biology at Queens College, City University of New York and author of Running Silver: Restoring Atlantic Rivers and their Great Fish Migrations.