The Fish Passage 2015 conference held in Groningen, The Netherlands, was an important international meeting about fish passage and river connectivity for migratory fish. Practitioners, policy-makers, researchers, engineers and students all came together to exchange experiences, ideas and to network. In past years, the conference was held in the United States, but under the coordination of Herman Wanningen from the World Fish Migration Foundation the conference was brought to Europe for the first time in June 2015. Mr. Wanningen wanted to bridge the gap in knowledge and experience between different areas of the world and to bring the work on fish passage from Europe into the spotlight.
Indeed, a large number of people were interested in attending this conference for just these reasons. At the close of registration, 550 participants from more than 40 countries had registered, with the majority of participants attending from western Europe and the United States.
During the official conference program, the keynote speakers, Beate Adam, Claudio Baigún, Zeb Hogan, Martin Mallen-Cooper, Dmitrii Pavlov and Laura Wildman, and all delivered thought provoking presentations highlighting the various issues, experiences and approaches used from different regions of the world. Claudio Baigún and Zeb Hogan also addressed the challenges that are being faced now in developing areas such as South East Asia and South America and the need for novel fish passage solutions that maximize environmental benefit and minimize cost. Laura Wildman, a fisheries engineer from the US, was a source of inspiration from her work on dam removal. It is hoped by many that future projects in Europe will also consider the removal of redundant dams. During the official conference opening, Herman Wanningen appealed to the Dutch minister to consider dam removal in Western Europe. A list of redundant dams is now being generated for the Netherlands… watch this space.
Whilst the plenary talks focused on general issues, the presenters during the sessions delved into the detail of various fish passage related projects from around the world including projects leading to identification of passage improvements, standardising fish passes, river management and potential policy changes to improve passage, just to name a few. There was also a workshop on the functionality of fish passes for sturgeon in large European rivers, and a session discussing the fish passage in the Rhine River, hosted by the International Rhine Commission. The majority of presentations were applied and focused at an audience from a wide range of knowledge backgrounds. General feedback from attendees also indicated a need for future presentations on basic passage engineering research and biomechanics. For a closer look at the abstracts, presentations and report please visit the conference website.
Overall, we look back on the conference as being a great success. The true value of the conference was in the networking opportunities on this international level and discussions that took place between the sessions. According to Peter Gough, from Natural Resources Wales, and member of the Organising Committee, some of the most valuable contacts and knowledge exchange were gained after the conference sessions during the many social events. Here delegates were keen to discuss successes, but also the inevitable trials, tribulations and lessons learnt during the design and delivery of projects to improve fish migration. The opportunities for such frank exchanges of experience are recognised as a key component of the conference.
Following this great success, it is anticipated that the Fish Passage conference will come back to Europe in the coming years. The next conference will take place in June 2016 in the United States.