Salmon are back in Seine river

This is a video of Atlantic salmon spawning in Spain.

From AFP news agency:

Atlantic Salmon returns to Seine

by Emmanuel Angleys – Tue Aug 11, 5:21 am ET

PARIS – After an absence of nearly a century, Atlantic salmon have returned to France’s Seine River, with hundreds swimming past the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame cathedral this year alone, researchers told AFP.

The reappearance of salmon and other species chased from these waters by dams and pollution is all the more remarkable because no efforts have been made to reintroduce them.

They came back on their own.

“There are more and more fish swimming up the Seine,” said Bernard Breton, a top official at France’s National Federation for Fishing.

“This year the numbers have exceeded anything we could have imagined: I would not be surprised if we had passed the 1,000 mark,” he told AFP by phone.

2008 was already a record-breaking year, with at least 260 tallied on a video system in the fish passage of the Poses dam above Rouen, a city roughly half way between Paris and the Atlantic Ocean.

Historically, the Seine hosted a flourishing population of salmon, a migratory species that return from the sea to their freshwater birth place to reproduce.

But the construction of dams, and especially the fouling of the Seine with chemical runoff from industry and agriculture along with organic pollution, led to their local extinction sometime between WWI and WWII.

Today, Salmo salar, or Atlantic salmon, is listed as a threatened species throughout Europe.

Imagine the surprise, then, of the weekend angler who reeled a six-kilo (13-pound) specimen just downstream from Paris at the end of last month.

Or the dozing fisherman in Suresnes, also downstream from the city gates, who snagged an even bigger one last October, the first such catch in over seven decades.

Salmon are not the only fish in the Seine making a comeback.

In 1995, only four species were known to swim its waters — eels, redeye, bream and carp — and at least one of these is invasive.

Today there are at least 32, according to the water purification authority for the larger Paris region. The lamprey eel, sea trout and shad have all joined salmon in the Seine over the last few years.

The reason, say scientists, is simple: cleaner water.

In the mid-1990s, “between 300 and 500 tonnes of fish died in the Seine up river from Paris every year because of pollution,” said Breton.

But massive efforts over the last 15 years, including a new water purification plant, have removed much of the river’s pollutants.

The rivers of the South Wales coalfield once ran black with mining waste and were so polluted in places that no life could survive. But, in one of the most remarkable environmental turnarounds Britain has ever seen, a 20-year effort to clean them up has paid off – salmon have returned to all of them: here.

Salmon in the Rhine river: here.

The European eel’s migration to the Sargasso Sea to spawn is one of nature’s great unsolved mysteries. New research: here.

Mystery of the disappearing Thames eels: here. And here.

River lampreys: here. And here.

25 thoughts on “Salmon are back in Seine river

  1. Seahorses lead the charge in a teeming Thames

    Rare birds and sea creatures are turning up in record numbers, writes Ellen Himelfarb

    Ellen Himelfarb

    LONDON — From Saturday’s Globe and Mail Published on Saturday, Apr. 19, 2008 12:00AM EDT Last updated on Friday, Mar. 13, 2009 11:48AM EDT

    Two weeks ago, as I read to my daughter from a picture book about a nubbly seahorse, I wondered: Why must children’s books abound with creatures their audience is unlikely ever to see?

    The very next day, I had to eat my words when news broke that a small colony of short-snouted seahorses (Hippocampus hippocampus) was living just a few kilometres away in the sludgy Thames estuary. The Zoological Society of London had kept schtum about the discovery for 18 months, while it lobbied to have the species protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Finally, this month, the act was modified to include the spiny seahorses, along with the water vole, angel shark and Roman snail.

    Time was London’s waterways were about as savoury as a Victorian privy. Now, the same river that 50 years ago was declared biologically dead – depleted of oxygen and reeking of sulphur – is clean enough to house some of our most threatened storybook characters.

    The rehabilitation of the Thames began in the 1960s, when London started investing in water treatment and ended the dumping of raw effluent into the water. Today, with tighter regulations on riverside industry, water quality has pretty much plateaued, so the sudden appearance of seahorses cannot be readily explained.

    “We’re not quite sure why they’re here,” says Neil Dunlop of the Environmental Agency, “but there hasn’t been a massive improvement [in the Thames] since the seventies and eighties.”

    He attributes the seahorse sighting to improved monitoring rather than filtering.

    Nevertheless, the return of river life has been increasingly evident. In 2004, a piranha and a seal were found within days of each other near the Thames shore. Soon after, there were sightings of oysters, Dover sole, cockles and salmon, searching for a stream in which to spawn.

    Even more exciting, in 2006, was the appearance of an 11-year-old northern bottlenose whale that had lost its way in the frigid Thames. Rather than join its pod in the Atlantic, it ended up skirting the North Sea, finding the river’s mouth and visiting Chelsea instead. It died shortly after a rescue crew tried to lead it back out – it was not the Thames that killed her, but dehydration, likely caused by the lack of suitable food.

    “The whale came down the wrong side of Britain and followed her natural instinct to go back to the west coast,” says Alison Shaw, an environmentalist at the Zoological Society. “If it [the Thames] was really revolting, she might have turned up her nose and swum away.”

    Londoners are clearly enjoying the river’s bounty. On a recent trip along London’s Regent’s Canal, I happened by two Sunday fishermen hauling out of the murky water a bass that must have weighed 16 pounds or more. The way they were congratulating each other, and the way the masses soon gathered, it seemed unlikely they had ever experienced a catch that impressive. Nowadays, fishermen are five to a yard along the canal, fishing for bass as well as perch, carp, bream, chub and pike – though it’s not just fish that have returned.

    Along the New River, a waterway constructed in North London during the 17th century, it has become commonplace to spot herons or egrets – a sight equivalent to spotting a flamingo in New York’s Washington Square Park. And no fewer than three esteemed London restaurants source their fish – including sea bass and salmon – from within the city’s ring road, the M25.

    I recently took my daughter to the London Aquarium, and we saw the seahorses on display there. She loved it. But with more than 100 species – from porpoises and dolphins to otters – now inhabiting the nearby Thames, it occurred to me: We could probably now find a greater level of biodiversity in the wilds of Central London than at the city’s aquarium – which is exactly as it should be.

    Ellen Himelfarb is a writer living in London.


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