Salmon – Quo Vadis?

Salmon – quo Vadis? is a documentary by Kristof Reuther and Jonas Steiner about the reintroduction of the Atlantic salmon in Germany and Switzerland .

This post was written by Jonas Steiner. The film comes with English subtitles.

Reintroduction of Atlantic Salmon in Switzerland

The documentary “Lachs – Quo Vadis” about the reintroduction of the Atlantic salmon in Germany and Switzerland has just been released on Youtube. For the project, we, Kristof Reuther and Jonas Steiner, visited various rivers along the Rhine and Elbe and documented the efforts to reintroduce salmon. The project was initiated by Kristof as part of the german Fish of the Year 2019 “Atlantic Salmon”, with the goal of discovering and documenting as much as possible about one of the largest wildlife conservation projects in Europe. On our way we have met countless highly committed people, who have put their heart and soul into bringing back salmon. So if you are interested in how salmon became extinct and how the situation is today – now is the time to open a “Laggs spezial beer” and watch “Lachs – Quo Vadis”.

Back in the Days

Historically, Switzerland is home to salmon. Rivers like the Aare, Birs and Töss used to be important spawning grounds of the big salmonids and even today street and restaurant names like “Zum Salmen” still bear witness to their relevance in the past. Despite this cultural presence, salmon has always been an expensive delicacy in our country, contrary to some popular tales that would have you believe that the servants’ contracts stated that they did not have to eat salmon every day.

However, salmon have not yet returned to Switzerland – mainly because of three remaining power plants between Freiburg (DE) and Basel. But what would happen, if these obstacles no longer existed – would Switzerland suddenly become a salmon paradise? Are the power plants ready for salmon and are there any possible spawning grounds left?

The Plan

Reports by the BAFU (Federal Office for the Envrionment) on waters in Switzerland basically concluded that there are suitable spawning grounds in various Swiss rivers. Another stroke of luck for the salmon and all the other (migratory) fish in Switzerland was the revision of the Water Protection Act 2011, in which a number of things were redefined; two of the most important changes are likely to be the prescribed renovation of hydroelectric power plants and the revitalization of Switzerland’s waters.

In concrete terms, this means, for example, that functional fish ladders must be constructed (and old ones tested on their functionality), with potential salmon waters being given priority. Nevertheless, this does not solve all problems. Even a power plant with fish ladders is still an obstacle. Most rivers in Switzerland are interrupted by a large number of power plants. We’re talking double digits in some cases. It is also relevant that there are still hardly any technical solutions for power plants for the fish descent, especially the way of the young salmon (smolt) back into the sea often ends in turbines.

Decline in salmon population in the first half of the 20th century
Decline in salmon population in the first half of the 20th century

So one can probably say that it will be another obstacle course that the first rhine salmon will have to complete when they finally make it back to us. Nevertheless, a lot is going on, the power plants between Freiburg and Basel will be renovated with fishpasses in the foreseeable future and we will be able to welcome the first returning salmon back to Switzerland in the foreseeable future. We are looking forward to it!

Jonas Steiner (l.) and Kristof Reuther (r.)
Jonas Steiner (l.) and Kristof Reuther (r.)

Take Action for Salmon!

If you liked the film “Lachs- Quo Vadis?”, we would be happy if you share it with your friends, relatives or club members to bring our rhine salmon a little closer to their hearts and home. We are collecting donations for active clubs and organizations in the context of this film project. The salmon look forward to any donation.

Low profile dam
Low profile dam

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