Friends of the Chicago River Receives President’s Fishery Conservation Award from the American Fisheries Society

August 23, 2022

Contact: Beth Beard
[email protected]


(Spokane, Washington) August 23, 2022 –The organization Friends of the Chicago River received the President’s Fishery Conservation Award at the 2022 American Fisheries Society (AFS) 152nd Annual Meeting in Spokane, Washington. AFS President Leanne Roulson presented the award at one of the meeting’s plenary sessions. The President’s Fishery Conservation Award is awarded for singular accomplishments or long-term contributions that advance aquatic resource conservation at a regional or local level.

“We congratulate Friends of the Chicago River for their dedication to improving aquatic habitat for the benefit of both fish and people. They set a wonderful example of what dedicated environmental professionals and volunteers can accomplish, and we are pleased to name them the recipients of the 2022 AFS President’s Fishery Conservation Award,” said Roulson.

The mission of Friends of the Chicago River is to improve and protect the Chicago River system for people, plants and animals. They are the only organization solely dedicated to the Chicago River system. For over 100 years, the history of the Chicago River was one of pollution, degradation, and neglect. In 1979, urban planner Robert Cassidy published an article in Chicago Magazine titled “Our Friendless River,” decrying the state of the river. Immediately, a grassroots effort ignited as 130 concerned individuals met to take action and improve this invaluable civic and environmental asset by forming Friends of the Chicago River. The Chicago River system now attracts residents, tourists, and wildlife to its banks. An increase of fish species from 7 to more than 70 since the 1970s demonstrates the in-stream impacts that Friends and their programmatic partners have had, and the river and its banks thrive with activity.

In 2005 Friends installed the Michigan Avenue Fish Hotel, demonstrating that it is feasible to construct places where fish can find food and shelter in a dense urban environment. The Hotel, which won four awards including one from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, provided habitat for fish and macroinvertebrates in the heart of downtown Chicago, and helped the public understand the river is healthy enough to sustain fish. The 42-ft by 8-ft Fish Hotel was composed of floating wetlands and fish bunkers and was able to rise and fall with the river level on steel beams. Its concept and design contributed to Fish Hotels in other cities and states. That same year, Friends and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources completed the pioneering installation of 400 Channel Catfish nesting cavities to improve reproductive success of native catfish and other fish species, and released 277,000 Channel Catfish to jumpstart reproductive success.

The success of the Fish Hotel led to the creation of The Jetty, which includes floating wetlands, limnetic curtains, and fish bunkers, on the Chicago Riverwalk in downtown Chicago, which opened to the public in 2015. The Chicago Riverwalk is immensely popular with locals and tourists alike, drawing 750,000 people in 2019. Through installations such as The Jetty, the public gains a better understanding of the river as a living natural resource.

Friends has been involved in a multitude of other aquatic habitat improvement projects, including invasive plant eradication to reduce erosion and improve water quality, installation of thousands of native plants to restore hundreds of acres of eroded shoreline, and dam removal to open more than 50 miles of upstream habitat stream for both fish and recreational paddlers. Partners working with Friends have included the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Openlands, Natural Resources Defense Council, Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Forest Preserves of Cook County, US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Shedd Aquarium.

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Editor’s Notes:

Founded in 1870, the American Fisheries Society (AFS) is the world’s oldest and largest fisheries science society. The mission of AFS is to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems by advancing fisheries and aquatic science and promoting the development of fisheries professionals. With five journals and numerous books and conferences, AFS is the leading source of fisheries science and management information in North America and around the world.

General link:

Link to AFS Annual Meeting: