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FY16 FAC Program Highlights


Pacific Region Fish and Aquatic Conservation offices celebrate World Fish Migration Day, join thousands of organizations worldlide to showcase migrating fish and their remarkable journeys

Hawai’i residents and visitors alike marvel at the island chain’s magnificent waterfalls, some of which are more than 1,000 feet tall. What many don’t know is that plant-eating, native stream gobies like the O'opu nopil (below), O’opu akupa, and O’oppu naniha, have developed an ability to scale them: using their fins and mouth.

O'opu nopili, a Hawaiian goby species that can scale waterfalls using its fins. Credit: Gordon Smith/USFWS

This fin-tastic feat, along with the ecological and community importance of Hawaiian gobies, other migratory fish, and healthy waterways was celebrated internationally on May 21, 2016, better known as World Fish Migration Day (WFMD).

2016 USFWS World Fish Migration Day Poster. Credit: Laury Zaccari, USFWS (retired)

Begun in 2014, WFMD 2016 was celebrated this year by over 2,000 organizations hosting events at 450 locations in 63 countries worldwide. The Day started in New Zealand and officially ended with a celebration of native gobies at He’eia Stream on the island of Oahu.

All native freshwater fish, shrimp and prawns in the Hawaiian Archipelago are migratory, so it seemed fitting to host the globe’s closing ceremony at a community-based habitat restoration site that’s a priority for the Service and the Hawaii Fish Habitat Partnership. The He’eia project itself highlights two of the biggest challenges migratory fish face: fish passage barriers and altered aquatic habitat.

Anchialine pool shrimp, like native gobies, migrate in Hawaii's freshwater streamsUSFWS (retired)

The agency teamed up with the Hawaii Conservation Alliance, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resource’s Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch, Papahana Kualoa, Hui O Koolaupoko, and other local watershed alliances to pull off Hawaii’s first-ever WFMD event. Over 50 volunteers showed up to release native fish into He’eia, remove invasive stream-sidevegetation, and watch a video presentation by local scientists that highlighted the benefits of open rivers for Hawaii’s migratory native stream animals.

A youth volunteer releases a Hawaiian goby into He'eia Stream on World Fish Migration Day 2016. Credit: Hawaii Conservation Alliance

WFMD 2016 and the Lower He’eia restoration project highlighted other community-based watershed restoration efforts and its volunteer-driven approach. In 2016, volunteers donated nearly 34,000 hours to help restore freshwater streams, fishponds, anchialine pools, and other waterbodies at sites on Maui, Kauai, the Big Island, and other parts of Oahu.

Volunteers removed invasive weeds., replanted native vegetation, and released native fish into He'eia Stream as part of WFMD 2016's closing event. Credit. Hawaii Conservation Alliance.

As impressive as those statistics are, the Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program’s role in supporting WFMD 2016 and raising awareness about migratory fish and fish passage efforts didn’t end near the International Dateline. Spring Creek, Little White Salmon, and Dworshak National Fish Hatcheries used social media and community outreach events like the Nez Perce Tribe’s Environmental Education -- Cultural Knowledge Day to highlight Service efforts to propagate, conserve, protect,and restore populations of steelhead, Chinook salmon, and bull trout.

The staff at Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery hold spring Cinook, a migratory fish species, for World Fish Migration Day 2016.

Meanwhile Pacific lamprey, often considered a ‘lost’ or ‘forgotten’ fish, also found the spotlight during three Service-supported WFMD 2016 events. Mid-Columbia River Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office staff participated in the Yakama Nation's celebration--and release of--70 adult Pacific lamprey in central Washington’s Ahtanum Creek.

An adult Pacific lamprey gets released into Washington's Ahtanum Creek as part of WFMD 2016. Credit: Ralph Lampman, Yakama Indian Nation Fisheries.

Additionally, Oregon Service staff brought live juvenile lamprey to two festivals in the Willamette Valley -- one of which celebrated the official naming of the United States’ only Lamprey Creek.

Regional Service efforts dovetailed with a national Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program campaign to learn more about native migratory fish and fish passage via the agency’s Migration Station website. Migration Station contains 16 fact sheets about regionally-important migratory fish, an animated video about fish migration, and a Flat Fish Migration Activity modeled after the popular Flat Stanley Literacy Project.

James Barron, a Fish and Aquatic Conservation employee, shows a Pacifc lamprey 'Flat Fish' and live juvenile lamprey displayed at two WFMD 2016 events. Credit: Sean Connolly/USFWS

So while the United States may currently have over six million human-made barriers to fish migration, one of the biggest was addressed during WFMD 2016: getting people to think -- and maybe someday act -- to ensure fish migration is more than a day of celebration.

Want to Learn More About WFMD 2016 or some of the events mentioned above? Visit the following pages:

World Fish Migration Day website
USFWS Migration Station Website
He’eia Stream/Hawaii Fish Migration (video)
Yakama Nation Pacific lamprey release (video)


-- Sean Connolly, Pacific Region Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program

By the Numbers
World Fish Migration Day, 2016:

Participating Organizations:
Over 2,000
Number of WFMC Events Worldwide:
Participation FAC Stations:
Migratory Fish Species the Pacific Region FAC Program Highlighted:

Bull trout
Chinook salmon
Pacific lamprey
O'opu nopili (Hawaiian goby species)

Last Updated: April 12, 2017
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