The Connecticut watershed is host to four main migratory fish, the Atlantic salmon, American shad, Striped bass, and the American eel. These fish live in both fresh water and salt water during different periods of their life cycles. The ecosystems of the Connecticut Rivers, Long Island Sound estuary, and the Atlantic Ocean together support the health and survival of these migratory fish.
The Atlantic salmon, American shad, and Striped bass are anadromous fish which means they begin their lives in the fresh water rivers, pass through the Long Island Sound, and then spend their adult lives in the ocean. These anadromous fish then return to the Long Island Sound on their way back to spawn in the river of their birth as mature adults, thus completing their life cycle.
The American Eel is a catadromous fish. Conversely, the American eel’s life cycle is the opposite of the anadromous Atlantic salmon, hatching in the Sargasso Sea, then riding the currents back to the Long Island Sound, and then spending its adult life in the fresh water rivers and lakes of North America. When eels are mature adults, they return to the Sargasso Sea where they mate, spawn, and then die.
The study of these fish’s remarkable life cycles and global migration patterns offers an engaging forum to study complex interactions of multiple ecosystems. The condition of these fish populations reflects the state of the marine ecosystems they live in. Subsequently, the fish are a vehicle that can be used to investigate the effects of the human impact on these ecosystems which impact the growth and survival of these majestic marine species. Additionally,
following migratory fish though their life cycle demonstrates the way our global water system and the ecosystems within them are connected and interdependent. Rivers, lakes, streams, estuaries, oceans, and seas are home to these migratory fish during various parts of their lives. The collective health of our global water system is imperative to survival of these incredible migratory fish.