Chances are good you’ve never heard of World Fish Migration Day. This will only be the third time it has been celebrated. But by sharing the story of this event and encouraging participation, perhaps we can educate more people about the importance of protecting and restoring the migratory pathways necessary for the health of many fish species. The theme of the day is “Connecting Fish, Rivers and People.”
The idea for an international day to celebrate fish migration had its beginnings in 2011. On May 14 that year, partners of the Living North Sea Project, funded by the European Union, joined forces to raise awareness about fish passage issues in the North Sea region, including 25 locations in seven countries. Events that day created a huge amount of positive publicity through regional and national press outlets, including social media, magazines, newspapers, radio and television stations.
Dutch conservationist Herman Wanningen from the World Fish Migration Foundation noticed the success of that event and was inspired to expand upon its achievements. He contacted organizations worldwide, including The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and International Union for Conservation of Nature, and encouraged them to join forces to create a celebratory day that would increase awareness of the importance of open rivers and migratory fish.
Wanningen’s efforts succeeded, and the first World Fish Migration Day was celebrated on May 23, 2014. Event organizers around the world hosted inspiring activities, including the celebration of the removal of a dam in Japan, a fishway tour in South Africa’s Kruger National Park and the inauguration of more than 20 new fish-passage facilities around the globe.
Wanningen was very pleased with global response to the initiative. “The need for clean and healthy rivers is felt worldwide,” he said. “People have had enough of unrestrained constructions of more river blockings. Clearly, structure and strategy must come in for natural river networks to remain connected, before it is too late.”
Humans have been using and modifying rivers for millennia to improve our quality of life. Rivers provide water supplies, irrigation, navigation, hydropower, fishing and much more. But these activities often have high environmental costs. Rivers become fragmented, water quality deteriorates, flow regimes are changed, habitat is destroyed, and all this collectively leads to declining fish stocks.
Dams in particular often block migratory fish from the stretches of rivers they need to thrive and reproduce. Dams on the Amazon, Irrawaddy and Mekong, for example, threaten the remaining fish migrations on those rivers. Remedial measures such as fish bypasses and ladders can only partly compensate for the massive obstacles to swimming fish.
Serious economic consequences often result, and poor people tend to be hit the hardest. Declining fish stocks in many river systems threaten food supplies for millions of people. Those employed in fisheries-related businesses suffer additional hardships.
Driven by Education
Fortunately, there are ways to restore free fish migration in rivers and to halt harmful projects not yet begun or completed. But before these things can happen, we must educate people, raising their awareness of the problems and solutions. World Fish Migration Day was established to do just that.
After the first World Fish Migration Day in 2014, it was decided to hold the event every other year because of the huge amount of planning and preparation required.
The second celebration was on May 21, 2016, with more than 450 events organized in 63 countries by some 2,000 participating organizations. More than 70 million people were reached with information about the importance of migratory fish, the need for healthy rivers and the options we have to minimize or avoid impacts.
It is hoped that this year’s event on April 21 will reach even more people, including not only the general public but students and their teachers, resource managers and engineers, commercial and recreational anglers, as well as those individuals who influence public policy that affect rivers.
How to Participate
World Fish Migration Day is free. Anyone can participate by organizing an educational event of some sort that revolves around the central message, “Connecting fish, rivers and people.”
Events that have already been registered for this year provide some topnotch ideas that might stimulate your creative juices.
In Pompano Beach, Florida, Gray FishTag Research scientists and representatives will pair up with local charter boat captains to teach school children about fish. Demonstrations and techniques will include how to properly handle fish to ensure survival upon release and how to properly tag a fish and record measurements.
The Rogue River Watershed Council in Grant Pass, Oregon, will host a community festival with various hands-on activities, educational in-school programs, a 5K race and fun run, and a public presentation on Pacific lampreys.
Shad Cruise 2018 is on tap in Lambertville, New Jersey. Participants can board the Delaware River Floating Classroom for a 1-1/2-hour steamboat ride to learn about efforts to restore the river’s population of the migratory American shad.
The Greenwich Conservation Commission will host an open-house event at the Mianus River Fishway at Cos Cob, Connecticut during the annual herring migration. Everyone is invited to stop by and learn about the history of the fishway and the incredible life cycle of the fish that depend on it. Staff and volunteers will be available to provide tours and answer questions.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will partner with Natural Resources Conservation Services to set up tables at the Seattle Aquarium while guests can see a fish-passage demonstration model, and make crafts such as fish prints and origami fish. Guests can learn about fish passage and fish migration at talks given by the staff.
At the Cape Fear River Watch Education Center at Lock and Dam No. 1 near Kelly, North Carolina, fisheries biologists will give a presentation about anadromous fish restoration efforts on the river, followed by a tour of the newly constructed migratory fish passage at the site.
Numerous Fish Day activities have been scheduled in other locations around the world as well, including events in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.
In the town of Lambaréné in west Africa’s Gabon, The Nature Conservancy and Organisation Ecotouristique du Lac Oguemoué will hold an event where youth members of nature clubs from eight local schools can learn about fish migration. They also will unveil a mural of migratory fish at a high school on the Ogooué River.
The Association for Innovation in Aquaculture and Fishery in Voluntari, Romania, will host a “Stop Poaching Sturgeon” event to disseminate information about highly threatened migratory sturgeons in the Black Sea and Danube River. Month-long student programs will include movies about sturgeons and a tour of a sturgeon aquaculture facility at a local aquarium.
In Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in China, the Chinese Sturgeon Conservation Alliance, Yangtze River Fisheries Research Institute, World Wildlife Fund and Nature Conservancy will sponsor sharing sessions on the status of the Yangtze River and the conservation of Chinese sturgeon for the public, school children and corporate staffs. A booth will be set up in a public area to raise awareness of the river and its inhabitants.
A rafting competition will be held at Foz do Iguassu in Parana, Brazil. Teams formed by employees of the Itaipu Binacional energy company will participate, with races in the fish transposition system called the Piracema Channel. At the same time, the attending public will have an opportunity to tag native fishes for later release in the channel.
On an international level, all World Fish Migration Day activities are centrally coordinated from the Netherlands by an experienced project team and steering committee with representatives from seven partner organizations: the World Wide Fund for Nature, Freshwater Fish Specialist Group, OAK, The Nature Conservancy, Amsterdam’s Regional Water Authority AGV, the University of Nevada-Reno and the World Fish Migration Foundation.
These partners are responsible for international publicity and maintaining the www.worldfishmigrationday.com website. Visiting the website will allow you to register your local event so others will know about it and to find information about other events around the world.
Promotional materials also are available to download from the website and can be shared with those who attend your event. These include a World Fish Migration Day brochure, poster, sticker and logo; cover images for use on Facebook and Twitter; web banners to use online; a big printable street banner; coloring pictures and fish fact sheets for children; and educational infographics to print or share online.
WFM Day Activities
When April 21 arrives, it will be time to spread the word about World Fish Migration Day. Follow Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter to keep up to date with all the latest activities and share the news with friends, family and colleagues.
If you are posting on these social media channels, use #worldfishmigrationday, #WFMD2018 or #happyfish.
Happy Fish is a special logo developed for World Fish Migration Day. It is a symbol to unite initiatives by organizations and government bodies from all over the globe that wish to enable free passage for migratory fish.
The fish’s big smile means that if successful, fish populations can thrive and increase. Happy Fish materials, including an invitation for World Fish Migration Day, a T-shirt logo and a hat logo, can be found here.
The main goal of World Fish Migration Day 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.
The next step is to activate citizens around the world to take action on these topics. It is hoped we can ultimately obtain lasting commitments from organizations, governments and industry to safeguard free-flowing rivers and restore river pathways used by our migratory fish.
Be part of the effort to help raise awareness. Join World Fish Migration Day now. For more information, go to worldfishmigrationday.com.