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Keywords:

  • fishway;
  • fish migration;
  • life history;
  • fish behavior;
  • Neotropical fishes;
  • fish conservation

Abstract

Many of the most important commercial and recreational species of the megadiverse Brazilian freshwater fishes migrate in rivers among essential habitats during all life stages. These movements, however, have been severely blocked by hundreds of hydroelectric dams and reservoirs and they will be even more obstructed due to hundreds of new developments. Fishways have been used in many countries to allow fish to pass around dams. Fishway construction is booming in Brazil, but poor understanding of migrations by Brazilian fishes has led legislators, scientists, and the public to several misconceptions about the rules of fishways in fisheries conservation. First, is a belief that fishways are only needed to facilitate upstream spawning migrations. Also, it has been suggested that upstream passage for Neotropical migrant fishes is not useful if there is no large free-flowing stretch upstream of a dam that contains spawning habitat and has a large natural floodplain (nursery habitat). In this paper, we discuss that, in addition to providing passage for pre-spawning migrants, upstream fishways also provide passage for other fish migrations (e.g. foraging), and that all up- and downstream migrations during life history need to be addressed at dams to conserve fish resources. We also argue that an upstream fishway is important even if the upstream reach does not have spawning or nursery habitats. In addition, we discuss the need for protection of downstream migrant fish, and the importance of fish behaviourists and engineers working together on fishway design and operation to solve fish passage issues. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.