New Hope for Migratory Fish Conservation


A staggering 97% of migratory fish on the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS) face extinction. A recent United Nations report takes a close look at the status of migratory species listed by the CMS; fish species are the most threatened, and freshwater fish species, in particular, are the most underrepresented. But amidst this alarming decline of migratory fish worldwide, emerges a promising solution. Swimways, a concept akin to ‘flyways’ but tailored for aquatic habitats, introduce a fresh perspective to conservation efforts. It underscores the critical significance of preserving free-flowing rivers as indispensable migratory pathways for a myriad of aquatic species.

Since 1935, when Frederick Lincoln first introduced the concept of ‘flyways’ to protect the migratory paths of birds by conserving wetlands along their routes, we’ve made significant progress.

But birds are not the only animals that migrate extreme distances and require protection to ensure the continuity of their migration path. Aquatic animals—including fish, turtles, and freshwater dolphins— depend on long stretches of free-flowing rivers to find food, reach historic mating or nursing grounds, or move between habitats in response to seasonal variations in water levels.

Aquatic animals need protection. Populations of freshwater species have already declined by 84% on average since 1970, with the degradation of rivers a leading cause of this decline. And nearly 1/3 of all freshwater fish face extinction. Protecting free-flowing rivers as Swimways allows populations to rebound without the pressure of habitat fragmentation.

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