Connecting Fish, Rivers and People

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On 21 May we celebrate the World Fish Migratory Day.  This is a global celebration of migratory fish and free-flowing rivers coordinated by the World Fish Migration Foundation.

According to the Living Planet Index, migratory fish have declined on average by 93% from 1970 to 2016 in Europe.  Many of the migratory fish, such as European eel (Anguilla anguilla),  Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and the beluga (Huso huso), were economically important while others are important for recreational anglers. Habitat degradation and change is the main cause of decline affecting more than 60% of the migratory fish populations.  River fragmentation is particularly high in Europe where inventories recorded more than 1.2 million barriers 15% of which are now obsolete.

This year’s World Fish Migratory Day is very special for Wetlands International Europe for two reasons: we expect that the European Commission will present its legislative proposal on nature restoration in June including the target of restoring 25,000 kilometres of free-flowing rivers.  We hope that this will give a major boost to river restoration in the European Union.  However, restoring the declining populations of migratory fish species will require a coordinated approach to river restoration to be effective.  Therefore, in collaboration with The World Fish Migration Foundation and the IUCN Freshwater Biodiversity Unit, we launch the Trans-European Swimways Network.

Through the Trans-European Swimways Network, we not only want to (re-)connect the habitats of migratory fish species, but we also want to connect people who care about fish across Europe.  With the participation of local experts, our swimways programme will identify and map out Europe’s major swimways and feed this information into the planning of river restoration activities.