Migratory fish need salt and fresh water to be able to grow and propagate. The Afsluitdijk makes it virtually impossible for these animals to migrate between the Waddenzee and the IJsselmeer. Numerous fish are waiting in the Waddenzee in front of the drainage locks. They smell the fresh water and want to go there with all their might, but are often not able to fight against the strong tide. This is one of the main reasons why the migratory fish population is worrisomely low. The fish will not have any difficulties finding the Fish Migration River. They will follow the smell of the fresh or salt water. Strong swimmers like shad, lamprey, flounder, sea trout, and salmon will swim to the other side of the dyke independently. Weaker swimmers like elver, European smelt, three-spined stickleback, and young fish can be carried by the tides. The water of the ‘river’ will follow the tides of the Waddenzee and has various flow rates. Because fresh and salt water merge in the Fish Migration River, the fish can get gradually used to the transition during their journey.
The Fish Migration River is a winding ‘river’ with a length of four kilometres, straight through the Afsluitdijk. This ‘fish passage’ enables migratory fish to swim from the salty Waddenzee to the fresh IJsselmeer whenever they want. And, naturally, back again. The Fish Migration River will be created to the west of the drainage locks at Kornwerderzand. This is the perfect place, as large quantities of fresh water are drained into the Waddenzee here: a lure for fish. The river also connects to the deep trenches at the bottom of the Waddenzee and IJsselmeer here. These trenches are called swimways: motorways for fish. The water in the IJsselmeer will become healthier and the number of plants and fish in the area will increase, in part thanks to the creation of the ‘river’. The fact that fish populations will recover is important for the many birds using fish as their main source of food. It also offers greater opportunities for professional and recreational fishing in the future.
The Fish Migration River is an initiative of the Waddenvereniging, It Fryske Gea, Sportvisserij Nederland, NetVISwerk, and het Blauwe Hart, and is being developed by De Nieuwe Afsluitdijk. The Fish Migration River was made financially possible thanks to the Province of Noord-Holland, the Province of Fryslân, the Government of the Netherlands, Waddenfonds, LIFE, Natura2000, Nationale Postcode Loterij, and CEF. The total costs amount to 55 million euros.
The Waddenvereniging and It Fryske Gea offer excursions to the location where the Fish Migration River will be created. You will learn all there is to know about fish, their behaviour, and the Fish Migration River here. Recommended for young and old! You can find the complete excursion programme of the Waddenvereniging here.
The construction of the Fish Migration River started in november 2020. The first fish will start using the river in 2025.