Tufts Lunch & Learn Program to Focus on Migratory Fish & Dams

For more information about this Tufts University program see http://as.tufts.edu/environmentalStudies/lunch/#oct22

The Dammed: Getting fish back into American rivers by chipping away at dams

Thursday, October 22, 2015, 12pm
Tufts, Lincoln Filene Center, Rabb Room, 10 Upper Campus Road, Medford

Becky Kessler, Environmental journalist and Editor, Mongabay

U.S. rivers once teemed with migratory fish making their way between the salty ocean and inland freshwater bodies: alewives, blueback herring, shad, salmon, trout, smelt, eels, lamprey, sturgeon, and others. But the installation of thousands of dams, culverts, and other barriers helped squeeze the fish flow to a trickle. Populations of 24 North Atlantic migratory fish species are now down to less than 10 percent of their historic size, and half are down to less than 2 percent, by one estimate. New England alone has no fewer than 25,000 dams, many of them dating to the 1700s, and more than you might expect in derelict and crumbling condition. Little by little, people are considering taking out some of these dams, with an eye to easing passage for fish, as well as generally improving rivers' health. But dam removal often runs into blockages of its own, and we'll talk about old (bad) and new (better) ways of getting fish over dams when that happens. On the east coast, flagship river restoration is taking place on the Penobscot in Maine, combining several strategies to improve fishes' odds of making it past the 13 dams that once choked its flow: dam removal, dam bypass, and better fish passageways. Enlightenment may be dawning in the U.S., but globally, dusk is descending for many riverine fish and peoples. We'll zoom out and look at the global dam-building frenzy that is transforming entire river networks in a quest for "green" energy, including the Yangtze and Amazon river basins, where roughly 250 dams are being planned or are under construction.

Rebecca Kessler is an editor at the environmental news website Mongabay.com, where she covers all aspects of our changing planet with a particular zeal for the ocean, environmental conflict, and indigenous peoples. A former freelance science and environmental journalist and senior editor at Natural History magazine, her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Yale Environment 360, Conservation, Discover, ScienceNOW, ScienceInsider, and Environmental Health Perspectives. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.