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
terimakasih0/Pixabay

When Iowa Valley Junior-Senior High School principal Janet Behrens observed her students in the cafeteria, she was dismayed to see that they spent more time looking down at their phones than they did looking at and interacting with each other. So last year, she implemented a new policy that's having a big impact.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

popular
The Guardian / YouTube

Earlier this month, a beluga whale caught the world's attention by playing fetch with a rugby ball thrown by South African researchers off the waters of Norway.

The adorable video has been watched over 20 million times, promoting people across the globe to wonder how the whale became so comfortable around humans.

It's believed that the whale, known as Hvaldimir, was at some point, trained by the Russian military and was either released or escaped.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Facebook / Maverick Austin

Your first period is always a weird one. You know it's going to happen eventually, but you're not always expecting it. One day, everything is normal, then BAM. Puberty hits you in a way you can't ignore.

One dad is getting attention for the incredibly supportive way he handled his daughter's first period. "So today I got 'The Call,'" Maverick Austin started out a Facebook post that has now gone viral.

The only thing is, Austin didn't know he got "the call." His 13-year-old thought she pooped her pants. At that age, your body makes no sense whatsoever. It's a miracle every time you even think you know what's going on.

Keep Reading Show less
popular