Tuesday, April 10, 2012
It is easy to get discouraged. It seems our country can’t do anything because of politics, at a time when we need to do a lot. I get tired of all the finger pointing rhetoric. I get tired of the head in the sand attitude about how climate change isn’t happening. I am tired of our government giving huge subsidies to oil companies who continue to show record profits. I just get tired of all the negativity, and all the things that just don’t make any sense, that we should be able to change easily, but just don’t seem able to. There doesn’t seem to be very much positive out there. But seeing shad return gives me hope.
The first school of the year, maybe 50 fish strong, made it to the swimming hole in Susquehanna State Park. There were a few yellow perch there too. The spring spawning migration of shad returning into our streams is a fraction of what it once was. And there are some species, like American Shad, that are still struggling. But their numbers are generally increasing. Yellow perch, also recently declining in number seemed to have reversed too. I celebrate these ecological victories as I float in this pool above my favorite rapid and watch each individual struggle against the current to reach its clean gravel spawning ground. We recognized shad were declining and decided to do something about it, so their return is a testament to what we can accomplish when we want to accomplish something. When we put our will behind action. It is a testament to the tenacity and resilience of ecological systems. There are definitely limits, and we can easily exceed them. At the same time there is elasticity, and if we recognize those limits early enough, and act, the system can recover. All is not lost. Not yet. But we need to act.
It is fitting that shad returned on Easter weekend. It is a time of hope, resurrection, and rebirth, and their presence in this creek signals the continuation of their species, the hope that more will return next year, more proof that maybe their species has been resurrected. It is one of the most hopeful events we can experience in our streams. Seeing these first migrants is the rebirth of my optimism that we will recognize the limits we are fast approaching, drop the rhetoric, and get busy. Seeing these fish renews my commitment to show people the incredible life just beneath the surface of our local streams.