On April 21, 2018 James River Association, partners and community members in Richmond will celebrate World Fish Migration Day –  a one day global-local event to create awareness on the importance of open rivers and migratory fish. Rivers around the world, like the James River, provide many services: water supply, irrigation, navigation, hydropower, fishing and more. However, these activities are often carried out at an environmental cost. Dams and other human activities can cause river fragmentation, water quality deterioration, and loss of habitat that collectively has led to decline in fish stocks. In 1609 Captain John Smith wrote of the Jamestowne Colony, “We had more sturgeon than could be devoured by dog and man.” The Bay’s largest and oldest fish was abundant in the waters of the James during European colonization, but by the dawn of the 20th century the sturgeon population had nearly collapsed due to overharvest, loss of habitat, and pollution. American shad once migrated to the James River in staggering abundance each spring. Despite the treasured cultural symbol shad represent in Virginia, American shad too have suffered from habitat loss, overharvest and construction of migratory barriers in the river like dams and culverts.

The James River is still home to many species of migratory fish that complete incredible journeys related to their spawning runs. Spending part of their lives in the ocean and part in freshwater rivers, these fish not only require healthy waters and habitat, but also open rivers where they may freely migrate. Thanks to long efforts by many organizations and agencies, the James River is showing signs of some improvement in water quality, and species like sturgeon are returning to spawn in greater numbers.

A full day of activities are planned around Richmond to celebrate and make residents aware of Fish Migration along the James River. Please join us to learn about these amazing fish, and ways that you can get involved. Here is a rundown of the schedule of events on April 21, 2018:


Guided Canoe Trip

About: Join the James River Association for a guided canoe program on the James River, launching from Great Shiplock Park and paddling to the Fall Line of the James near the Mayo Bridge. Participants will explore Richmond’s riverfront and learn about impediments to fish migration and their impacts on species in the James River and its tributaries. Canoes, lifejackets, paddles and instruction are all provided by James River Association staff. Ages 16 and up are eligible to attend, and trips are limited to 16 participants. Registration and a $15 fee is required at: https://form.jotform.com/80885754984982

When: 9am-10:30am

Where: Great Shiplock Park
2803 Dock Street
Richmond, VA 23231


Bosher’s Dam Fishway Festival

About: Join RVA World Fish Migration Day’s main event! At the festival, visitors will learn firsthand about the species that migrate through the James River and the efforts taken to help support fish passage. Bosher’s Dam is equipped with a fishway structure, designed to allow migratory fish species to freely move upstream and downstream of the dam during their spawning season. Guided tours will be offered every hour starting at 10:30am, led by the VA Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) staff who maintain and monitor the fishway. Live fish collections by DGIF throughout the day will allow visitors to see the fish before being released back into the river. Organizations and agencies working to conserve migratory fish species will feature booths and information on local activities to improve water quality and make fish migration possible.

This event is suitable for all ages and will occur rain or shine. A short walk is required from the parking area to the fishway so please plan for this “migration” accordingly. The first 50 attendees will receive a Fishes of Virginia poster.

When: 10am-2pm

Where: Bosher’s Dam
8727 River Road,
Richmond, VA 23229
Boshers Dam Driving Access Map


Paint Out Pollution

About: Paint Out Pollution is a project to increase awareness of stormwater pollution through storm drain art. Volunteers will use stencils of migratory fish species, including the Atlantic sturgeon, Blueback herring, and American eel, and spray paint to install art on storm drains. Celebrate World Fish Migration Day by painting out pollution with the James River Association and Art on Wheels. Learn more and let us know if you’re interested in volunteering here: https://thejamesriver.org/what-you-can-do/paint-out-pollution/

When: 2pm-4pm

Where: Chesterfield Community Development Building
9800 Government Center Parkway
Chesterfield, VA  23832


DamNation Film Screening

About: Dams across the world have blocked fish migration for centuries. This powerful film odyssey across America explores the sea change in our national attitude from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that our own future is bound to the life and health of our rivers. Where obsolete dams come down, rivers bound back to life, giving salmon and other wild fish the right of return to primeval spawning grounds, after decades without access. DamNation’s majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move through rivers and landscapes altered by dams, but also through a metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature. The DamNation film trailer is available at: http://damnationfilm.com/trailer. A special thanks to Aviva Rental Systems for providing professional audio/visual equipment for the event. 

When: 6:30pm-8pm

Where: Blue Bee Cider, Scott’s Addition, Richmond
320 Summit Ave, Richmond, VA 23230
Film will be screened in the “hayloft” at Blue Bee Cider