The fall and triumph of the Connecticut River salmon.

This is, ultimately, a success story. But in order to have success, you've got to have challenges.

If you're a wild Atlantic salmon, these last few hundred years have definitely been challenging.

The Connecticut River had been dead for over 200 years.

Dead to wild salmon, at least. Atlantic salmon used to spawn in the river, nearly 40,000 of them each year. Though salmon spend most of their adult lives out in the ocean, they always return to streams and rivers to breed — not just any stream or river, either, but to the exact streams or rivers where they were born. 

By the end of the 1700s, pollution and damming had essentially killed off all the salmon who called the Connecticut River home. The pollution made them sick, and the dams physically stopped their migration in its tracks. The combination of those two obstacles ensured that no salmon would ever be able to return to the Connecticut River.

By the time this postcard was made, circa 1900, the salmon had long disappeared. Image from The New York Public Library.

Unfortunately, this is a common problem throughout the Atlantic. Many historic salmon runs in places like Scotland are seeing salmon disappear, no thanks to overfishing in both fresh and salt water.

Losing the salmon isn't just sad for people who like to eat them — it's sad for the river's ecosystem as well.

When a salmon's finished laying eggs, it dies. That might seem like a raw deal, but that's how it goes for salmon. But that does something marvelous for the ecosystem. That salmon's body is full of nutrients stored up from its life in the ocean. When it dies, those nutrients are released back into the stream and surrounding environment.

The entire river benefits from what the salmon bring. Image from NPS/Wikimedia Commons.

Salmon are, effectively, a pump moving nutrients from the ocean into the forest. In the Pacific Northwest, where salmon runs are common, one study estimated salmon provide as many nutrients as a layer of commercial fertilizer.

So yeah, it's important that we keep our salmon populations alive. 

For years, people tried to revive the Connecticut River salmon ... and failed.

There were programs in the 1800s, and then one started again in the 1960s to revive the salmon population. People cleaned up the river. Passageways were built around dams to allow the fish to migrate again. But the salmon were gone. And because wild salmon only return to the river of their birth — and no wild salmon had been born in the Connecticut River for years — no salmon returned.

Instead, biologists focused on stocking the river with salmon eggs, hoping that the fish would be able to find their way back once they had grown up. There was some success, but budget cuts and a devastating hurricane put that program in danger. In 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stopped participating in the program. A few legacy projects hung on, but it looked like the end.

GIF from "Finding Nemo."

But remember how I said this was a success story?

In November 2015, biologists discovered THREE salmon nests, complete with eggs, in the Connecticut River!

This is huge news for salmon, people, and the environment!

It means that not only are salmon returning the river, but the water is clean enough for them to successfully breed as well. 

Juvenile salmon live in freshwater rivers and streams before migrating out to the ocean as adults. Image from The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Wikimedia Commons.

This is great news! Salmon have been an important food supply for people for millennia, and they're an important species for anglers too. Not to mention all that work keeping that nutrient-pumping cycle in the river's ecosystem going.

Now, three salmon nests isn't a lot, but it might be the start of something beautiful.

Maybe a return to something like this? Image from NOAA Photo Library/Wikimedia Commons.

This is something that hasn't happened in over 200 years

"It's the first time since probably the Revolutionary War," Peter Aarrestad director at the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection told the Hartford Courant.

A lot of people have worked hard for a long time to make the Connecticut River home to those three little nests. And it goes to show that we don't just have the capacity to hurt the planet — we can help heal it as well.

Hopefully those three little nests are the heralds of a time when we can return to seeing a Connecticut River filled with 50,000 salmon.

GIF from "Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog."

Most Shared

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

Keep Reading Show less
Packard Foundation
True

Someday, future Americans will look back on this era of school shootings in bafflement and disbelief—not only over the fact that it happened, but over how long it took us to enact significant legislation to try to stop it.

Five people die from vaping, and the government talks about banning vaping devices. Hundreds of American children have been shot to death in their classrooms, sometimes a dozen or so at a time, and the government has done practically nothing. It's unconscionable.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information
via Hollie Bellew-Shaw / Facebook

For those of us who are not on the spectrum, it can be hard to perceive the world through the senses of someone with autism.

"You could think of a person with autism as having an imbalanced set of senses," Stephen Shore, assistant professor in the School of Education at Adelphi University, told Web MD.

"Some senses may be turned up too high and some turned down too low. As a result, the data that comes in tends to be distorted, and it's very hard to perceive a person's environment accurately," Shore continued.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information
Truth

Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

truth
True