Humans have been using and modifying rivers for millennia to improve our quality of life. Rivers provide many services: water supply, irrigation, navigation, hydropower, fishing and more. However, these activities are often carried out at a high environmental cost: river degradation. We have caused river fragmentation, water quality deterioration, flow regime modification, and habitat modification and destruction, collectively leading to decline in fish stocks.
We have built barriers, such as weirs, dams and sluices for water management, hydropower and land drainage. These barriers in rivers and on coasts prevent fish migrations for reproduction, feeding and other purposes. Currently, migratory fish that require access to and within our freshwater ecosystems are threatened around the world and fish stocks are declining rapidly.
Many species of salmon, shad, giant catfishes, dourado, sturgeons and eel migrate between the sea and the rivers to complete their life cycle. Other species must make extensive migrations within their home rivers to reach critical habitats. Free migration routes for fish are crucial to their survival. If they cannot reach their breeding ground, the species will decline and eventually become extinct. This fate has fallen already on many fish species all over the world.
Primary food source
Around the world, millions of people rely on freshwater migratory fish as a primary food source and for their livelihoods. For example in the Mekong River basin, 50 million people depend on the river and the food it provides for nutrition and an income. The collapse of fish stocks has a devastating effect on the food security of these people, which includes millions of the world’s poorest people.
Restore fish migration
Conservationists and water and natural resource managers are working together to improve migration possibilities for fish in rivers and deltas. We see it as our shared responsibility to find solutions and restore free fish migration. We aim to recover healthy rivers and prevent future degradation and species extinction. We do this to improve environmental conditions, which we owe to future generations, and to ensure the sustenance of the millions of human lives that depend on rivers. In order to accomplish this brighter future, we need to start by educating people and raising awareness of the current situation as well as solutions to the problems.
For more information about fish migration, restoration measures and a free download of the Guidance 'From sea to source' see www.fromseatosource.com.