What does the fish migration river Afsluitdijk stand for?


A physical fish pass is being created right across the ecological barrier that the Afsluitdijk currently constitutes. This will not just be a hole in the dyke, but a wide passage route creating a new estuary or river extending about three kilometers on both sides, that will enable  water to flow naturally with the tidal current.

Around the world fish have been restricted in their ability to swim from seawater to fresh water or vice versa. The reason for this is the global construction of dams, dykes and other obstacles in rivers and delta areas. The Afsluitdijk – opened in 1932 and an iconic example of Dutch hydraulic engineering to this day - is an example of such a barrier. It blocks the international water passage for migratory fish species including salmon, seatrout, and eel, which in turn threatens their reproduction cycle and has caused some of these populations to be placed on the endangered species list. 


Protected World Heritage

This stands in stark contrast to the fact that the saltwater side of the Wadden Sea, along the outer rim of the Afsluitdijk, has been declared a Protected Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and for good reason: the area is an essential link in the life cycle for dozens of fish species. The same is true for the IJsselmeer, the largest freshwater basin in Western Europe, which is located on the inner side of the dyke and also suffers from the consequences of this complete blockage.

Professional fishermen and sports anglers will tell you the same sad tale: there are hardly any fish left in the IJsselmeer and the same goes for the Wadden Sea: the fish population is rapidly dwindling. This and similar situations in other parts of the world call for remedial measures of fresh- and saltwater connections, so that fish can swim freely once again. 

Innovative solution

These days, an increasing number of parties that used to stand on opposite sides of the divide now seek each others support in noteworthy coalitions, which are now resulting in creative ideas and innovative solutions. The construction of one such solution will start in 2017, in and around the Afsluitdijk in the northern part of the Netherlands.

On this famous site, nature organizations, (sports)fishermen, engineers, artists and local governments are to work together to create a unique concept that knows no comparison in the world today: the Fish Migration River Afsluitdijk. A project that has already gained international recognition, even before any construction has commenced and that draws interested visitors from all over the world.

Hole in the dyke 

Via a controled channel inside the Afsluitdijk, various migrating fish species will be able to reach their spawning- and habitat areas once again. This physical fish passage route is not simply a hole in the dyke, but a wide passageway with kilometers of estuary to both sides, which will allow the water stream to move naturally along with the tide. A typical example of state-of-the-art Dutch delta technology, in which building for and alongside nature are central themes. At the same time, it is an innovative solution from which not only the fish population, but all of us draw the benefits.

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