2014 Summary

14 POSITIVE freshwater conservation outcomes reported in 2014

Over the last two years I have been sharing stories about freshwater conservation and ecology on a Facebook Community page: Freshwater Fish. Based on all the stories I read and posted to Freshwater Fish over the year, I decided to create a post (here) about the positive freshwater conservation initiatives and outcomes that caught my eye over the last year. Let’s be fair, to generate this list, I had to bypass a lot stories (many of them depressing and frustrating) about the challenges we face in maintaining or restoring healthy waterways. However, below are 14 positive stories (in no particular order) about freshwater conservation from 2014! Here’s to many more positive freshwater conservation outcomes in 2015!

1. New species abound: In April research published in the journal Zootaxa reported on two new snapping turtle species. The alligator snapping turtle, the biggest freshwater turtle in North America, originally thought to be a single species, is actually three! Coverage in Nat Geo.

2. The first World Fish Migration Day: The 24th of May 2014 the 1st World Fish Migration Day (WFMD 2014); a celebration of healthy rivers and free-running fish with over 270 events worldwide. One thousand different organizations from more than 50 countries were involved in WFMD 2014. With diverse engagement of policy makers, local communities and students, over 80% of hosts from the 130 events rated their event as excellent or very good. The wash-up is here. We are looking forward to WFMD 2016!

3. Water flows into the Colorado River Delta: Most will argue that this effort is not enough, but in early March 2014 the gates at Morelos Dam on the Mexico-Arizona border were opened for the first time in history for the purpose of allowing the Colorado River to flow downstream into its delta. Coverage of story in Nat Geo.

4. Pacific salmon get new protection from pesticides: The US Environmental Protection Agency announced first-of-its-kind legislation on pesticide use in California to protect salmon and steelhead trout native to the state’s rivers. See more here

5. Positive news for salmon in the UK: Missing for a 200 year period, salmon have returned to some rivers in England. A long-standing reintroduction program for the Dove River in Derbyshire has recently been deemed a success story and is believed to be one of the furthest inland salmon runs. Along with the restocking program, it is believed that the success of the program hangs on improved water quality and the removal of barriers to fish movement. BBC story here

6. Migratory fish return to Penobscot River, USA: By reconnecting the river to the sea, the Penobscot River Restoration Project (http://www.penobscotriver.org/) is returning ecological, cultural, recreational and economic benefits throughout New England’s second largest watershed. In early 2014 along with the completion of the Veazie Dam removal, and a successful restocking program, alewives returned to the Penobscot for the first time in nearly 200 years. Bangor Daily Mail coverage.

7. Siamese crocodiles get a head start in Cambodia: In August, Save our Species (http://www.sospecies.org/) introduced 20 young Siamese crocodiles (Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List) back into the wild in Cambodia. This species plays both important ecological (top predator) and cultural roles in Cambodia. Here’s the full story.

8. Gar spotted in the Windy City: While incorrectly tagged under “Ocean Views” on the Nat Geo website, a great story by fellow fishnerd Solomon David highlights the findings of a spotted gar in the Chicago area. Solomon tells the tale better than I can, so check out his story here.

9. Successful conservation programs for pirarucu fishery in Brazil: I always enjoy when fresh waters or their dependent species making positive headlines in big news outlets. In late 2014 the New York Times covered a story about how fishers in Brazil have taken steps to save the pirarucu fishery. To do this, fishers have both prohibited outsiders from catching the fish and regulated the methods they themselves use to catch it. The full story, and some fantastic images, can be found here

10. First fish species is taken off the Endangered Species List in USA: The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced in April that the Oregon chub is no longer threatened with extinction. The agency plans to monitor the fish species for another nine years to ensure restored populations are maintained. In addition to the Oregon chub’s recovery, species including salmon, western pond turtles and red-legged frogs have benefited from restored habitats. Coverage by Huff Post here.

11, 12 and 13. Improved information about freshwater fishes: Freshwater fishes are the most poorly understood vertebrate taxa on the planet, making the conservation of these species challenging. Thankfully there are a lot of folks working hard to improve our understanding both about the ecology and biogeography of these species, which can in turn inform the conservation of these species. 2014 saw some pretty cool developments such as 11) improved distribution maps for an endangered species: (http://bit.ly/1rzpdCo),12) a refined dataset depicting freshwater fish species distributions (http://bit.ly/1tvZFn2) and 13) a first look at how historical processes shaped modern day freshwater fish patterns (http://bit.ly/1rzpZz2).

14. Rare fish species found in outback Australia: It is always great news when new individuals of a rare species are found. This was just the case in a remote area of Queensland, Australia where the Edgbaston goby was found in a bore drain some 40 kilometres from the only area where the species had previously been known to occur. Check out the story from ABC News.

Thanks for reading!

— SJH