Removing the barriers to healthy rivers

On Saturday (April 21) we will be celebrating World Fish Migration Day (WFMD). This is a one day global-local event to create awareness on the importance of open rivers and migratory fish.

In my spare time, I work as a volunteer for the World Fish Migration Foundation and was instrumental in its creation.

Here in Wales, along with the UK and Europe, we take fish migration very seriously.

Removing barriers to the free migration of fish helps us ensure our rivers are healthy and is essential if we are to achieve the standards laid down in the Water Framework Directive. It also makes a vital contribution to maintaining sustainable fish stocks which in turn, contribute to a prosperous Wales by boosting the rural economy by millions of pounds and creating hundreds of jobs through angling.

Over the past decade we have worked closely with rivers trusts and other partners to remove barriers across Wales, sometimes by installing large, expensive fish passes and sometimes by removing smaller barriers where it is safe to do so.

As a result, we have restored access to hundreds of kilometres of river habitats.

Globally however, viable fisheries are even more important.

In South America, Africa and South East Asia hundreds of millions of people are completely dependent on river fisheries for their protein source. These fisheries are dependent on free migration of fish along the lengths of enormous rivers like the Amazon, Congo and Mekong Rivers, and yet these rivers and their vital fisheries resources are at risk from hundreds of dams built over the past decade and hundreds more that are planned.

The builders of these dams, usually constructed with finance from western banks, fail to consider what’s required to maintain fish stocks – both through the provision of good fish passage solutions but also by recognising that fish habitats are often damaged or lost in the enormous reservoirs the dams create.

The stakes here are very high with the wellbeing of indigenous people on one hand and the growing demand for hydroelectric power for developing cities on the other.

The World Fish Migration Foundation seeks to raise the profile of this by demonstrating the critical requirement to protect fisheries resources by ensuring that migrations are preserved, and World Fish Migration Day is one way to achieve this. In 2016 more than 50 million people were engaged in the celebration focussing on free rivers for fish and recognising the urgent need to connect fish, rivers and people.

Saturday also sees the publication for the Foundation’s new book ‘From Sea to Source’. This is a follow up to an earlier publication which has seen more than 10,000 copies distributed worldwide.

World Fish Migration Day has gained in popularity over the years and is no longer the preserve of fishermen but is now supported by public bodies, politicians and NGOs and this year we are delighted to have as our ambassadors Jeremy Wade of River Monsters and Zeb Hogan of National Geographic.

On Saturday over 520 events will be taking place, including four in Wales, they are:

  • River Taff at Radyr Weir with the South East SE Wales Rivers Trust, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, Cardiff Council, Cardiff Harbour Authority and NRW
  • River Dee fish trap at Chester Weir with NRW and the Dee Trust
  • Super Sewin Saturday at Whitland Memorial Hall with Salmon and Trout Conservation Cymru and NRW
  • Salmon in Talgarth with The Wye and Usk Foundation
  • AMBER Project – a trout’s journey with Swansea University and WFMF

You can find out more information here

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