400+ organizations call for urgent action to save migratory freshwater fish and free-flowing rivers

400+ organizations call for urgent action to save migratory freshwater fish and free-flowing rivers

March 31, 2022 –– With negotiations on the new global framework for nature falling far short of the ambitious goals needed to reverse the loss of freshwater biodiversity, 402 organizations called today for a clear commitment in the final deal to protect the world’s remaining free flowing rivers.

Based in 86 countries, the organizations called on all governments to incorporate a goal in the agreement under the Convention on Biological Diversity that would permanently safeguard all free-flowing rivers, which are essential for migratory fish and provide diverse benefits to people and nature.

Herman Wanningen, Founder and Director of the World Fish Migration Foundation says, “Catastrophic losses in migratory fish populations show we cannot continue destroying the worlds free flowing rivers. We have already dammed, obstructed, and diverted so many rivers, the world cannot afford to lose any more if we are to halt the loss of nature. Free Flowing rivers are also vital for fisheries, climate resilience and nutrient and sediment transport. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) framework for nature must include goals for protecting and restoring Free-Flowing rivers.

The Open Letter also called on governments to agree to an ambitious goal to restore rivers by removing obsolete barriers from dams to weirs and culverts. Europe alone counts 1.2 million physical barriers in rivers. Dam removal has significant positive environmental impacts, is cost-effective, and supports job creation. Several case projects have shown migratory fish populations come back quickly in response to dam removal.

In the USA, for example, many dams have been removed over the last few decades and the dam removal movement is growing. In 2021 alone, over 2.100 river miles were reconnected through dam removal projects, improving habitat and biodiversity in rivers and their resilience to a changing climate. This is beginning to happen in Europe, as well. More than 5.000 barriers have been removed over the past decades and the removal of barriers is getting mainstreamed by a movement called Dam Removal Europe. And the EU Biodiversity strategy is now mentioning a target of 25.000 kilometers of free-flowing rivers by 2030 by removing obsolete barriers.

Dam removals bring life back to rivers. Once you remove a dam, the river starts flowing and fish come back by the millions again. We have seen the example in the USA when two major dams were removed from the mainstem of the Penobscot river and Kennebec river,” said Pao Fernandez, Project manager Dam Removal Europe.