Environmental History:
The Great Atlantic River Fish Migrations


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Running SilverEver wonder what pristine runs of migratory fish in Atlantic rivers looked like to early colonists? Some saw so many salmon, shad, alewives and other species that they said the waters “ran silver” with fish as they swam upstream to spawn.

John Waldman’s Running Silver: Restoring Atlantic Rivers and their Great Fish Migrations (Lyons Press, 2013) covers the biology, history, and conservation of shad, salmon, striped bass, sturgeon, eels and the others that complete grand migrations between fresh and salt waters.

This includes the evolution of these unique life cycles, the ingenious ways that native people and colonists fished for these species, ‘fish wars’ between mill dam operators and fishermen, the ravages of damming, pollution, and overfishing, and more recent concerns such as climate change, power plant water withdrawals, and the introduction of non-native species.

Along the way Waldman argues that fish ladders and hatcheries are not the answer to restoring these fish, that overfishing and warming seas may lead to fewer ‘giants of the rivers,’ and even how our long-held ideas of what a natural river should look like are wrong.

Waldman includes many of own field experiences researching these species, from tagging sturgeon to collecting striped bass with haul seines in the ocean surf; these accounts show, first hand, the promise and frustrations with restoring these fish. And yet he sees hope, ending on an optimistic note by providing ten important ideas to help make rivers run silver once more.

Matt Miller, on The Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science blog called Running Silver “a brilliant and heartbreaking book” and the same reviewer wrote that Running Silver is “one of the most important conservation books he’s read in years.”

John Waldman joined the faculty of Queens College as a tenured professor of Biology in 2004. For the previous twenty years he was employed by the Hudson River Foundation for Science and Environmental Research, most recently as Senior Scientist. He received a Ph.D. in 1986 from the Joint Program in Evolutionary Biology between the American Museum of Natural History and the City University of New York, and prior to that an M.S. in Marine and Environmental Sciences from Long Island University. As an aquatic conservation biologist he has authored more than 80 scientific articles and several popular books, in addition to a number of scientific volumes. I’ve also been an occasional contributor to the New York Times and other periodicals.

Note: Books noticed on The New York History Blog have been provided by their publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

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