Migratory salmonids as icons of conservation, restoration and rewilding of aquatic environments
Convened by: Anssi Vainikka, Jukka Syrjänen, Raine Kortet, John Piccolo
Conservationists have long neglected fish due to their generally high reproductive capacity, difficulties in population estimations compared to terrestrial vertebrates and importance as human food, but fish do face similar conservation genetic constrains as any other organisms. Salmonids represent iconic animals whose presence generally indicates a healthy state of the ecosystem. Salmonids are intensively targeted by recreational anglers who spend extensive amounts of money for fishing trips, licenses and equipment. Salmonids are still fished also commercially despite their often small and economically marginal role in commercial fishing in general. Recreational angling typically induces a strong conservation motivation among anglers and brings many socio-economic benefits to society. At best, modern angling has a small ecological impact on the stocks themselves due to responsible catch and release practices. This symposium will gather geneticists, aquatic ecologists and researchers from social sciences to discuss the key challenges in maintaining the genetic and functional diversity of salmonids, and the restoration of populations and habitats in rivers with extensive anthropogenic impacts. Willingness to conserve aquatic ecosystems is continuously increasing in post-industrialized countries with the image of fish changing from food to an animal with individual traits and intrinsic value. Many aquatic ecosystems, like freshwater environments of salmonids, face multiple stressors from pollution, climate change and direct human uses. Fish are reliable indicators of the ecological status of lower trophic levels, and sources for human well-being both as a food and as a source of recreation. Sustainable management of fish and their environments requires understanding of the spatial and temporal genetic structures of populations, and stresses that can all affect their ecological and genetic diversity and integrity. Successful fisheries management requires co-operation between local, regional and governmental organizations, as well as a continuous dialogue between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and scientists from both natural and social sciences. In conservation, NGOs and active citizens still have pivotal roles. We expect the symposium to contribute to the dialogue of conserving salmonid biodiversity through its inter-disciplinary and contemporary focus.