Imagine you are in a room full of scientists. You have just discussed the status and trends around a certain group of species worldwide, and you ask the question, “What is the most important next step?” Let’s be honest, many of you actually might joke that scientists will immediately ask for more research and data. And certainly more funding! However, in September last year, we had a situation where we got a complete opposite response. My colleague Herman Wanningen and I were fortunate to attend the impressive American Fisheries Society conference in Reno. At this event literally thousands of people gathered to talk about rivers, nature and fish. Together with the University of Nevada and FISHBIO we organised a session about the global status and trends of migratory freshwater fish. And there, after some discussion we asked the question, ”What is the most important next step for migratory fish worldwide?” To our surprise the main responses were creating policy actions, raising awareness and developing an action plan. Only a few mentioned research, funding and databases. The message of the audience in Reno was loud and clear: this is urgent, we have to reach out and act, now. That’s not without reason.
Currently, we are working on a new global Living Planet Index for freshwater migratory fish species. In one graph it pictures the main trend for these species all over the world. It is too early to mention the figures, but I can tell you this – it is grim. Very grim. Freshwater migratory fish populations all over the world show very serious declines. I think this is what many people involved in the subject already know. They learned this from experiences in their work, as anglers, from stories of colleagues or from other sources.
However, the issue gets so little attention in policies, whether at a local community level or at a global level. For example, the global Convention of Migratory Species talks about hundreds of birds but has hardly any records on freshwater species. This is what we want to change and improve. It's not that we need less of a focus on birds, but we need to include more attention for life underwater. The growing enthusiasm of communities all over the globe that work to recover and restore migratory fish habitats and populations shows the momentum is right. There are already so many inspiring examples to do it right. Did you know the UN declared the coming decade as the decade of restoration? Well, river restoration is one of the fastest and most rewarding measures one can take! The timing is right; we need to reach out now!
This year, we will celebrate the fourth World Fish Migration Day. At the time of writing of this blog already more than 265 events are registered in more than 50 countries. And at the time of writing, we are also in the middle of the difficult situation of COVID-19 facing us all, which made us decide to postpone the big official celebration from May 16th 2020 to October 24th 2020. This is our chance to go with the flow and an opportunity to get creative! In consideration of the uncertainty of this situation, we encourage our community to either plan digital or physical events to celebrate together in the period from May to October. Together we can make sure that stories of amazing migratory freshwater species are being told, through newspapers, social media and television. Together we can make sure that policymakers see the urgency AND the potential of all the positive energy of people who are ready to restore.
It’s time to think global about fish migration and make a change for local rivers. We truly believe we can make a difference together, will you join us?
Join World Fish Migration Day