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Environmental Education with a Freshwater Focus

Conservation efforts are necessary in each type of ecosystem to mitigate environmental damages inflicted by people over time. The range of species in need of conservation efforts is diverse, from the marine Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) to the terrestrial Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis). All species and ecosystems are inherently important; however, the amount of attention each ecosystem receives from scientific communities and the general public is variable, and some ultimately attract more publicity than others. Freshwater ecosystems in particular often go without notice or discussion in either developed or developing countries, exacerbating the decline of freshwater habitats and aquatic biodiversity. How can we do our part to increase global awareness of freshwater environments and create a genuine interest in their conservation in both a pragmatic and sustainable manner? A recent paper in the journal Fish Biology highlights some key barriers and strategies for effective freshwater environmental education (Cooke et al. 2013).


Freshwater ecosystems are some of the most heavily impacted and threatened in the world (Malmqvist & Rundle 2002), yet several factors contribute to low awareness of the need to conserve these ecosystems. For example, media attention focuses on marine fishes 50% more than freshwater fishes (Cooke et al. 2013). Certain species in freshwater ecosystems are as threatened as their marine counterparts, and face additional threats due to multiple demands for freshwater resources; yet a lack of knowledge and interest on this issue has hindered conservation efforts. Freshwater systems largely lack familiar, charismatic ambassadors that attract attention to other ecosystems, such as polar bears or sharks - however, there are many worthy candidates that could fill this role. Additionally, the economic and social value of freshwater fish in aquatic ecosystems have not been adequately quantified (Parkkila et al. 2010). Until a model that clearly conveys the value of freshwater ecosystems exists, people are unlikely to have a vested interest in their conservation.


Current interventions devoted to conservation of aquatic ecosystems are rare, and many have yet to make a noticeable impact. Two elements needed for effective aquatic systems conservation are the ability of scientists to communicate relevant information effectively to the public, and for politicians to promote evidence-based decision-making (Sutherland et al. 2004). There are various ways to disseminate conservation information to groups of people, but one of the most successful is environmental education (EE). EE interventions include conveying information, building understanding, improving skills and enabling sustainable actions. The idea of EE is to have a dialogue across diverse platforms, including social marketing and capacity building, which facilitates the exchange of ideas and prepares learners to make decisions. EE programs should be designed in a way that encompasses the unique circumstances of each community, and presents learners with ways they will benefit from being proactive in freshwater resource conservation issues. It is important to use creative strategies to make connections between human activities and freshwater fishes in order to generate an appreciation for ecosystem value (Cooke et al. 2013). The more people become aware of the issues surrounding freshwater conservation, the greater the potential for freshwater ecosystem conservation actions.

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Salmon Festival on the Feather River  

The City of Oroville recently hosted the  19th Annual Salmon Festival on September 27-29 to celebrate the thousands of returning salmon in the Feather River. Many festival activities took place in the Salmon Court where FISHBIO had an informational booth set up and we were able to experience the growing cultural influence of the salmon festival first hand. Especially important to us was the ability to interact with fellow fish fans of all sizes. Thousands of attendees to the festival had a chance to tour the  Feather River Fish Hatchery, participate in grilled and smoked salmon tasting, and enjoy a weekend full of live music, food, and fun. 


Not to be overshadowed by the music, food, and vendors, the Chinook salmon being celebrated made their own splash. Many salmon making their way back from the Pacific Ocean could be seen from the downtown bridge in the Feather River moving towards the fish ladder at the Fish Barrier Dam in Oroville. The fish ladder not only serves as a way to direct fish into the hatchery, it is also a way to segregate two distinct salmon runs. The Feather River is home to both fall-run and spring-run Chinook salmon (see  Challenges of spring-run Chinook salmon). The spring-run Chinook salmon begin arriving annually as early as March and enter... Read more > 

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New project gives 'snapshot' of CA's wild salmon populations

Bay Nature  

California's salmon serve as an indicator of the health of watershed and coastal ecosystems. But since peaking in the early 20th century, wild populations have been in decline with seven out of 10 of California's coastal salmon and steelhead species now federally threatened or endangered. One of the first steps in fish recovery is simply figuring out how many are left and where they are -which is the goal of a new project by the The Nature Conservancy... Read more >  

Environmental science students rise to storytelling challenge
California Water Blog
Every spring for the past 12 years, a class of a dozen or so UC Davis undergraduates ride a river in the American West for a learning adventure like none other in their college life. Whether rafting the Colorado through the Grand Canyon, plying the undammed Skeena in British Columbia or paddling the Kobuk in Alaska's Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, the educational strategy has charted the same course... Read more >
In the pink at Issaquah Salmon Days Festival
Seattle Times

Issaquah Salmon Days Festival is "Streaming Live," ready to welcome the more than 150,000 people expected at the popular rain-or-shine event that celebrates salmon returning to spawn in local creeks, lakes and the downtown fish hatchery every autumn. Events and attractions in downtown Issaquah Saturday and Sunday feature entertainment on five stages, 250 arts and crafts vendors, kids' activities, hatchery tours and Foods of the World from 60 vendors... Read more > 

Cle Elum students get close-up look of spawning salmon 

Daily Record News

By the end of the year, sixth-graders at Walter Strom Middle School under the tutelage of science and math teacher Dale Sweet will be well on their way to becoming salmon experts. Throughout the course of this school year, the students will dissect salmon, raise salmon in a tank in the back of the classroom before releasing them into the Yakima River and even conduct water quality tests to determine if the fish could survive in local creeks...

Health of oceans 'declining fast'

BBC News

A review from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), warns that the oceans are facing multiple threats. They are being heated by climate change, turned slowly less alkaline by absorbing CO2, and suffering from overfishing and pollution. The report warns that dead zones formed by fertiliser run-off are a problem. It says conditions are ripe for the sort of mass extinction event that has afflicted the oceans in the past... Read more >