The ICPDR sturgeon strategy will only save the rare fish if implementation starts now
Sturgeons are an integral part of the natural heritage of the Danube River Basin. Being 250 million years old, they are among the oldest fish in existence. Sturgeons have outlasted the dinosaurs, but today are the most endangered species group on the planet, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The remaining, dwindling sturgeon populations in the Danube are consequently a rare treasure in need of urgent and decisive protection.
“Illegal fishing and habitat destruction are still driving Danube sturgeons towards extinction”, says Irene Lucius, Conservation Director of WWF-Danube-Carpathian Programme. “For example, the recent construction of a bottom sill - a type of navigation infrastructure - on the Bala branch of the Lower Danube hinders sturgeon migration - a disaster that could have been prevented by choosing innovative solutions” she added.
Making the Iron Gates and Gabcikovo dams passable for sturgeons as is envisaged by the ICPDR Strategy will reopen precious sturgeon habitat upstream. Other planned measures are not fully in the hands of the ICPDR and its water management community. The establishment of living gene banks, for example, or the fight against sturgeon poaching have to be managed by other governmental authorities. WWF therefore expects water management authorities to reach out to their peers in law enforcement agencies, fisheries departments or management authorities of funding programmes to advocate tirelessly for their support and action.
The ICPDR’s sturgeon strategy is a welcome effort to catalyze much needed cross-sectoral actions to secure the survival of Danube sturgeons. WWF is ready to continue its support for ICPDR sturgeon conservation efforts and hopes for more concerted joint efforts in the future.
The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River works to ensure the sustainable and equitable use of waters and freshwater resources in the Danube River Basin. The work of the ICPDR finds its foundation in the Danube River Protection Convention, a major legal instrument for cooperation and transboundary water management in the Danube River Basin.