German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Saving the Sturgeon

For over 15 years now, the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation has been supporting long-term research and reintroduction projects for native sturgeon species. Back in the 1970s, these ancient migratory fish were thought to be extinct in Germany. The project goal is to restore sturgeon populations. Researchers have released nearly half a million Atlantic sturgeon into the River Oder. Similar restocking measures aim to reintroduce the fish to the River Elbe. Jörn Geßner: This spring, the fish we see here will all be individually marked and the released in the various tributaries of the Elbe to help rebuild the population in the Elbe river system. We have managed to release about eight-and-a-half thousand juvenile fish into the River Elbe and upstream waters. Since 2012, the success of these measures has also been seen from increasing numbers of sturgeon caught and returned by anglers. Larvae for restocking the once native European and Atlantic sturgeon species have so far been imported from abroad. So building a stock of parent fish in Germany – sturgeon do not mature until twelve to fourteen years old – is another aim of the project. The reintroduction is an exemplary cooperation project, with scientists and conservation agencies working hand in hand with fishing and angling associations. Young sturgeon need richly structured habitats and good water quality to survive. As adults they live in the sea, but they migrate back up-river to spawn. 2010 saw publication of a national action plan for the European sturgeon, historically native to the North Sea and its tributaries The projects can only succeed in the long term if the fish are able to spawn successfully time after time. This means they need sufficient food at sea to grow and safe spawning and rearing grounds in rivers. Sturgeons have moderate needs in terms of an intact habitat. Jörn Geßner: Everything we do to improve habitats for sturgeon also helps improve habitats for a large number of other characteristic river fish species that are far less easy to get across to the public and far less well known. This means the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation’s sturgeon project is also exemplary in supporting other migratory fish species and fostering greater biodiversity in our river regions.