Fish Migration Around The Globe

Global swimways are the main routes that migratory fish take across the world. Here we explain why this matters & what we want to do.

Did you know there are over 1,100 iconic species of migratory fish?

These amazing creatures can travel thousands of kilometers throughout their lifetimes both upstream and downstream and even across oceans. These fish are incredible athletes, enduring arduous journeys from one habitat into another. Many of them are key to supporting the healthiness of freshwater and marine ecosystems and they are an essential source of protein for billions of people.

What is a Swimway?

A Global Swimway is yet to be formally defined but is taken to mean the most important migration routes for freshwater fishes.

At this stage of development we have identified potential Global Swimways according to the following preliminary set of criteria for presence of migratory freshwater fish: species richness, the number of threatened and endemic migratory fish using each river system, and the length of migrations undertaken. The resulting Swimways are visualized using an interactive online map explorer. Mapping the migration route helps cooperation to protect the fish from sea to source.

Quotes of ambassadors

As we are reminded by the extinction of the Chinese paddlefish, many migratory freshwater fish are in urgent need of additional protections and improved management.

Zeb HoganScientific Councilor for CMS

We believe we can use this developing concept of swimways for migratory fish and aim, through this project, to gain the momentum for taking this forwards as a tool to inform global policy and raise awareness leading to action.

William DarwallHead of the Freshwater Biodiversity Unit of IUCNs Global Species Programme

Flyways and Swimways: look to the sky to protect migratory fishes

Migratory fish species

Migratory fish populations have been declining

Unfortunately, over the past several decades, migratory fish populations have been declining. The recently published Living Planet Report shows a global decline of 76% in less than 50 years. One of the main reasons is because their migratory pathways are blocked by dams or other barriers and many fish cannot complete their lifecycles.

Take for example the recently extinct Chinese paddlefish. Because of the implementation of dams along the Yangtze River, the fish was no longer able to reach its spawning grounds and therefore could not mate. There are many species of migratory fish facing this threat.

Mapping Global Swimways 

Mapping Global Swimways 

Mapping Global Swimways 

Mapping Global Swimways 

Mapping Global Swimways 

Mapping Global Swimways 

With the completion of this map, we will have a better picture of the important migration routes we must protect. The concept of swimways will increase awareness of people about migratory fish and promote policy makers to think global and act local.

Working on global Swimways is still in the pioneering stage.

Now we need to fully develop and implement the Global Swimways initiative! See Global Swimways 2

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