Ten countries unite for a common purpose: the protection of migratory fish in the Danube River Basin

News & Media
Promotional image of MEASURES  project with fish

Vienna, 28 October 2018 (Press Release) - Ten countries along the Danube (Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine) join forces in an EU-funded project to conserve endangered migratory fish species in the Danube river basin by identifying and improving access to habitats and promoting the establishment of ecological corridors.

The MEASURES project will officially be launched on October 1st 2018 in Austria during an event hosted by University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. The launch is part of a two-day kick-off event bringing together key stakeholders and international project partners to focus on the project’s main topic: managing and restoring aquatic ecological corridors for migratory fish species in the Danube River Basin, or MEASURES.

The Danube is home to some of the most important sturgeon and other migratory fish populations (e.g. shads, barbel, nase etc.). Bulgaria and Romania hold the only – still – viable populations of wild sturgeons in the European Union. These populations have faced a dramatic decline in the past decades due to man-made barriers that prevent their migration and their ability to spawn, such as dams or hydropower plants. These barriers fragment the natural habitats of migratory fish, making it impossible for fish to move up or downstream to spawn or reach feeding grounds. In the long term, these barriers, along with other anthropic human activities such as overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction, will lead to the extinction of the species unless action is taken now.

In order to address the problem of migratory fish reaching their habitats, MEASURES will lay the foundation to establish ecological corridors by identifying key habitats and by initiating transboundary protection measures along the Danube and its main tributaries. During the three-year implementation timeline, the innovative actions will focus on the following:

  • mapping and identifying the key habitats, followed by the development and testing of the methodology for migratory fish habitat mapping;
  • elaborating a harmonized strategy for restoring green corridors and supporting implementation in future management plans;
  • restocking two native species to conserve their genetic pool in middle Danube in Hungary (Acipenser ruthenus) and in the lower Danube in Romania (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii), which will require establishing a network capable of carrying out a concerted re-population effort and will provide important insights into operating broodstock facilities.;
  • implementing the MEASURES Information System to facilitate access to relevant information by experts, decision-makers and the general public ; and
  • providing concrete experiences to incorporate into future policy and management plans to ensure that future projects lead to the sustainable management of relevant sites that restore ecological corridors.

The Danube and its tributaries are key migration routes for sturgeons and other migratory species, such as barbel and nase. These species are excellent bio-indicators of the effectiveness of ecological corridors due to their specific needs during their long lifecycles. This is especially true of sturgeons, which typically migrate long distances and are an important part of the natural heritage of the entire Danube Region. Their dramatic decline in the last few decades has become an issue of basin-wide importance, documented by the Danube countries and the European Commission.

The Danube is a key lifeline in Europe connecting important bioregions, economies and cultures. Securing biodiversity is fundamental to human development and rivers are one of the most threatened ecosystems on our globe. Our project contributes to these challenges specifically for the Danube River in its role as an important ecological corridor connecting natural heritage sites and an organism group key to a sustainable future of the river, migratory fish including sturgeon species”,  says Thomas Heins, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna.

The event will be organized by the MEASURES (Managing and restoring aquatic Ecological corridors for migratory fish species in the Danube River basin) project and is co-funded by the European Union (ERDF, IPA). MEASURES was started in June 2018 and is scheduled to end in May 2021. For more information about it, visit the project website: www.interreg-danube.eu/measures.

Paul Meulenbroek, project manager, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, cnhy.zrhyraoebrx@obxh.np.ngta.ca.ukob@keorbneluem.luap
Ioana Cenușă, communication manager, WWF DCP Romania, vprahfn@jjsqpc.ebor.pcdfww@asuneci