James Owen in London for National Geographic News
Published May 17, 2010
This story is part of a special series that explores the global water crisis. For more clean water news, photos, and information, visit National Geographic’s Freshwater website.
The fly-fisher standing in the clear-flowing river could be from the movie A River Runs Through It: Even his Western-style hat is like the one Brad Pitt’s character wore in the U.S. film.
Except this isn’t Montana (see map). Instead of pines and mountains, the backdrop is a busy high street, with red double-decker buses, betting shops, and kebab houses. This river, the Wandle, runs through the middle of London.
A similar scene unfolds in central Stockholm. Outside the Swedish Royal Palace, an angler carrying his heavily bent rod weaves between tourists and waterside hot dog sellers. He straddles the wrought iron railings, goes down a ladder, and later emerges with a large, silver trout.
Across Europe, fish are returning to city waterways thanks to major cleanup efforts in recent decades. And with them, a rare species of recreationist: the urban angler.
Atlantic salmon and sea trout (sea run brown trout)—migratory fish that are extremely sensitive to pollution—are among 67 fish species now found in the Rhine, which passes through 17 major European cities, according to a 2009 survey by the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine.
“As far as fish are concerned, the species composition is almost complete today,” the report said.
Between 1870 and 1950, the Rhine’s annual salmon catch plummeted from 280,000 tons to zero. But in 1990, salmon reappeared, and two years later, the fish began breeding, according to the Rhine-protection group.
And in 2009, scientists announced that salmon had returned to Paris—a lucky angler even managed to catch one. About a thousand salmon that had migrated up the River Seine were recorded in the French capital, which had been devoid of the species for nearly two decades.
More at amazing stuff at … National Geographic
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