Secret lives of fish

April 21 is World Fish Migration Day, a day to celebrate the importance of healthy, open rivers and the migratory fish that rely on them.

Many fish are mighty migrators!  Every spring and fall, millions of fish around the world are migrating between the oceans and our coastal rivers to produce new generations of fish. Millions more live in freshwater all year and are also on the move, some swimming 2,000 miles to spawn, feed and grow.

Along the way, migratory fish encounter multiple obstacles such as dams and culverts, which prevent them from migrating out to the ocean or migrating back upstream to spawn and reproduce. And this has contributed to a decline in fish populations worldwide. World Fish Migration Day is an opportunity to raise awareness on these issues, and share resources for restoring fish passage. Through our national fish habitat partnerships, and with States, Tribes, watershed associations and many private landowners, the Service works to remove or modify these obstacles so fish can move freely.

Since 2009, the Service and partners have removed or replaced more than 507 barriers to fish passage from Maine to West Virginia, reconnecting more than 4,020 miles of rivers and streams and 19,300 acres of wetlands.

Many of the fish species that benefit are anadromous, meaning they were born in freshwater, migrate out to the sea as young juveniles and then return to freshwater to spawn. Much of their lives are spent in the ocean, where they may be a valuable commercial fish, or become food for other commercial fish. Resident freshwater fishes, such as brook trout, lake sturgeon and the American paddlefish, also benefit from improved fish passage. And fish are not the only winners. Every mile of river restored contributes more than $500,000 in social and economic benefits to people and communities. Additionally, removing dams to increase fish passage helps protect communities from flooding and enhances recreational opportunities for paddlers. Learn more about some of this inspiring work here.

Lake Champlain’s landlocked Atlantic salmon returned to the Boquet River to spawn. (Biologist Zach Eisenhower holding fish.)

You can help and have fun, too, with this Flat Fish Migration Activity. Show your support for World Fish Migration Day and keep rivers healthy and flowing free. Find an event near you at WFMD!

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