EU states endorse urgently needed sturgeon action plan to save critically endangered species
After decades of plummeting numbers due to poaching and habitat loss, Europe’s sturgeons have been given a sign of hope today. The European Commission and experts from EU member states endorsed the implementation of a continent-wide plan to save the species from extinction under the EU Habitats Directive. This will be the first action plan for a fish species implemented under this EU Directive.
The Pan-European Sturgeon Action Plan covers 8 European sturgeon species – 7 of which are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species – and will be the first ever action plan for a fish species implemented under this EU Directive.
The plan aims to conserve the last surviving sturgeon populations in Europe, restore habitats and reintroduce sturgeon to many rivers. Critically, the plan also outlines actions that countries will take to tackle poaching and the illegal trade in wild sturgeon products – the most immediate threat to the survival of the species.
“This action plan could be the last chance for Europe’s sturgeon: without urgent action, the continent will lose these iconic fish species within our lifetime – species that have been on Earth for over 200 million years” said Beate Striebel-Greiter, WWF’s Sturgeon Coordinator. “The endorsement of the Action Plan by EU states shows their renewed commitment to saving sturgeon. However, if not followed by swift action, the Action Plan will become just another great conservation strategy gathering dust on shelves around the continent – and sturgeons will become another statistic in the 6th Great Extinction” added Striebel-Greiter.
European countries also committed to creating living gene banks and taking steps to reintroduce sturgeons back into the wild. Last month, the partners in the MEASURES Project reintroduced over 6000 baby sturgeon in Hungary and Romania. However, it must be noted that because of the migrating nature of sturgeons from rivers into seas, no individual country will be able to save them by themselves. This is why the Action Plan needs to be enshrined at the European level. “Countries in river and sea basins must work together on this, otherwise they will fail” continued Beate Striebel-Greiter.
Due to the fact that they live long, mature late, and use many different habitats, sturgeons are ideal umbrella species; a species that indirectly protects the many other species that make up the ecological community of its habitat. Procedures to improve sturgeon habitats and integrity of populations will also benefit other species and communities. As such, they are invaluable as indicators for environmental health.
The world’s 27 species of sturgeon are considered the most endangered group of species worldwide.
International Day for Biological Diversity
In 1993, the United Nations has proclaimed May 22 the International Day for Biological Diversity to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues, and commemorate the adoption of the UN Convention of Biological Diversity. The Convention is an international legally-binding treaty with three main goals: conservation of biodiversity; sustainable use of biodiversity; fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. Its overall objective is to encourage actions, which will lead to a sustainable future. The document covers biodiversity at all levels: ecosystems, species and genetic resources.
 Expert Group on the Birds and Habitats Directives (NADEG)