Running Silver

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Select media coverage: Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science Blog, New York Times

running silver“A beautiful and often heartbreaking book, one of the most important conservation works I’ve read in recent years. . . . It brings the past alive, and uses that past to chart a better course for the future. And more: like the best books, Running Silver helps us see our world in fresh, unexpected ways.”
The Nature Conservancy, Cool Green Science (review)

That one could “walk drishod on the backs” of schools of salmon, shad, and other fishes moving up Atlantic coast rivers was a not uncommon kind of description of their migratory runs during early Colonial times. Accounts tell of awe-inspiring numbers of spawners pushing their way upriver, the waters “running silver,” to complete life cycles that once replenished marine fisheries along the Eastern Seaboard. Over the centuries these stocks were so stressed that virtually all are now severely depressed—in many of these rivers their numbers have been reduced 90 to 98 percent from their historical peaks, becoming distant memories or even forgotten. Lyons Press is proud to announce the release of RUNNING SILVER: Restoring Atlantic Rivers and Their Great Fish Migrations, by John Waldman (October 15, 2013, 978-0-7627-8059-4; $26.95 hardcover), an important and fascinating look at the fish whose history, life-cycles and conservation challenges are so poorly understood.

Using Henry David Thoreau’s prescient observations on New England rivers as guideposts, and drawing on the author’s thirty-year career as a scientist and educator, this book tells the story of the past, present and future of these sea-river fish through research, historical accounts, personal anecdotes, interviews, and images. RUNNING SILVER details the enormous legacy that has already been lost and will inspire efforts to save and restore what remains:

  • Though hardly noted since then, Henry David Thoreau predicted these great declines in the 1830s in his A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.
  • Truly large specimens of these fish are becoming increasingly scarce and future conditions indicate the days of ‘river giants” are past.
  • The litany of causes for these declines is onerous: overfishing, habitat destruction, water pollution, invasive species that compete or prey on migratory fish, and climate change.  But no single factor has caused as much harm as damming rivers. Recent projects in Maine and elsewhere along the Eastern Seaboard show that removals of large hydropower dams are possible and lead to rapid increases in numbers of migratory fish—precedents that should help fuel the growing national dam removal movement.

John Waldman is a professor at the City University of New York and a leading voice in aquatic conservation biology. In 2012, he was recipient of the Marine Conservation Biology Award from the Wildlife Conservation Society. He is the author of the award-winning Heartbeats in the Muck: The History, Seat Life, and Environment of New York Harbor (Lyons Press), among other books. He lives with his wife and children, not too far from the water, in Sea Cliff, NY.

One thought on “Running Silver

  1. Pingback: Illuminating New York Harbor | The Nature of Cities

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