The European Sturgeon Conference was jointly organised by Austria in the frame of the Austrian EU Presidency and the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) on 9-10 July 2018, Vienna, Austria.
Sturgeons are an integral part of the natural heritage of Europe. They are among the oldest and largest fish still living in freshwaters originating 200 million years ago. These ancient migratory fish that can grow up to seven metres in length and can live to be a hundred years old once were present in large, viable populations in many rivers and adjacent coastal areas of the European Union. Today they have either disappeared completely or declined dramatically over the past century thus having become a group of threatened species that almost went extinct. Given their sensitivity to environmental pressures, sturgeons are a key indicator and umbrella species of the ecological status of rivers and their environmental functionality.
The largest populations of sturgeons in the European Union in the wild can be found in the Lower Danube catchment; but even there the status of sturgeon populations has declined dramatically over the last decades. From the six native Danube sturgeon species, one is extinct already, one is functionally extinct, three are on the verge of extinction, while one is considered threatened. Only small and fragmented populations, either dependent or originating from stocking activities remain in other parts of Europe, making the conservation of the sturgeons a topic of truly European dimension. At global scale, sturgeons are amongst the most threatened species group on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Urgent conservation action is therefore needed.
Objective of the Conference
Why a conference at European level? The overall objective of the Conference – jointly organised by Austria in the frame of the Austrian EU Presidency and the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River – is to trigger comprehensive action for sturgeon conservation and restoration within the Danube Basin as well as at the Pan European level. By bringing together relevant institutions and experts to share up-to-date information about sturgeon conservation actions and further needs, the Conference aims to provide an overview of the challenges in implementation and to convey input to the recently adopted ICPDR Sturgeon Strategy and ongoing activities at the Pan-European level.
PA4 representative took active part in panel discussion emphasizing the necessity of the international cooperation and also the cooperation with Danube strategy on conservation, restoration and protection of this threatened species.