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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Hooray for Fish Ladders and Generous People

A young alewife. Photo by Katie Conrad/USFWS  

I use a wheelchair, which means that more than once I have had to be carried somewhere or picked up off the floor.

I am always overwhelmed by other folks’ willingness to help -- sometimes complete strangers. At the same time, I yearn for independence.

As I read about a recent fish passage project on the Saugatucket River in Rhode Island, I couldn’t help but compare my situation with the river herring and cheer the fish on.

Spring Migration for Fish 

Each spring, anadromous fish like the alewife and blueback herring, collectively called river herring, migrate from saltwater, up a river, to freshwater to spawn. River herring can swim more than 10,000 miles upstream from the Atlantic Ocean to lay eggs in freshwater lakes with ample food and few predators. 

In reality, dams and mills often create barriers.

Fish Ladders

A fish ladder, which is an inclined series of tiny waterfalls that create an alternate stream for the fish,  can help. These ladders mimic the natural flow of a river and allow fish to travel to the other side of the dam.

But the fish ladders along the Saugatucket River at Main Street Dam and Palisades Mill were too steep and difficult for fish to navigate. When community members noticed the build-up of fish near the ladders, they hand-carried the fish over the dams, helping thousands of river herring complete their migration pattern.  (Is it dusty in here? Why are my eyes watering?) 

With our partners we recently finished work on new fish ladders, and earlier this spring, tens of thousands of river herring utilized these improved passages and migrated independently up the river to spawn.

I never before thought of myself as a river herring, now I’ll never forget. And on behalf of my new-found fishy brothers and sisters, I’d like to thank the people of Wakefield for carrying the river herring and everyone who built new ladders to give them back their independence.


By Matt Trott with Emily Schaefer 


What a great analogy and a new way to think of this work! I think it's dusty in here too...
# Posted By Beth Freiday | 6/17/16 4:31 PM

Love it when people come together on their own. That's real community.
# Posted By Mary | 6/26/16 8:08 PM
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