By Chadd Cawson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

On the fins of the Indigenous-led Bringing Home the Salmon Festival comes World Fish Migration Day (WFMD), celebrated internationally on May 21. It is a one-day global event to create global awareness of free-flowing rivers and freshwater migratory fish.

Living on the traditional lands of the Ktunaxa (Akisqnuk) and Secwépemc (Shuswap Indian Band) First Nation, the area lies adjacent to the Columbia River, making WFMD a day Columbia Valley residents we should be aware of. 

The biennially-celebrated WFMD marked its first worldwide celebration of healthy rivers and free-running migratory fish May 24, 2014, boasting over 270 different events globally in their first year. The celebration spanned 53 countries worldwide, with over 1000 different organizations participating or showing their support. By their second WFMD in 2016, this number rose to 450 events celebrated across 63 countries. It was then that they adopted the slogan “Fish can’t travel like we can.” This was aimed to highlight that fish are restricted to in-water movements that demand connectivity, or without obstacles like our cherished Columbia River. Social media analysis showed that WFMD reached 70-million people globally that year. 

This will be WFMD’s fifth year with the theme “Break Free,” as they celebrate opening rivers and recovering migratory fish populations. As humans are breaking free from the restraints of COVID, hopefully migratory fish (like salmon) are doing the same, escaping from obstacles like many of the dams and culverts in the Columbia River. Across the globe, there will be 347 events for those that share a passion for the importance of our rivers and the fish that swim them. 

One different way WFMD is celebrating this year is by calling on all little artists for their first fish flag contest, open to ages 5 to 18. They hope to see thousands of submissions from participating youth, colourfully displaying a love of free-flowing and migratory fish on WFMD. The contest is free to enter from their website. 

The winning flags will be announced during their live broadcasts this year in Portugal, The Netherlands, and the U.S. during their Break Free live-show which will begin at 8:30 a.m. MST. Other highlights of this live show will include musical performances and guest speakers Zeb Hogan host of Monster Fish and Nat Geo Wild and Jeremy Wade host of River Monsters and Animal Planet. For more information on WFMD or to register for this year’s event, visit