German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Fish of the Year 2014: The Sturgeon

Rivers that are close to their original state, free of human modifications and rich in natural structure are the ideal habitat for the native sturgeon. These ancient migrating fish are returning to the River Elbe and the North Sea and to the River Oder and the Baltic. This is the successful outcome of a long-term research and reintroduction programme for the European and Atlantic sturgeon. In 2013, the programme was recognised as a UN Decade on Biodiversity project: A great accolade for the work of the Save the Sturgeon Society - and its partners. So far, scientists have been able to release over half a million young sturgeon into the Elbe and the Oder rivers - ambassadors of an intact river system and rich biodiversity. (Dr. Elsa Nickel, German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, Nature Conservation Division:) The United Nations declared the ten-year period from 2012 the UN Decade on Biodiversity. The aim is to make as many people as possible aware of the importance of biodiversity and of nature conservation - as the basis of existence for us all. In implementing this UN Decade on Biodiversity, we want to shine the public spotlight on as many projects as possible, so people see the kinds of things they themselves can do to help conserve biodiversity. Working together with a wide range of partners, regular restocking programmes are carried out in the Elbe, the Oder and their tributaries. In school projects, children learn about these fascinating migratory fish and about what it means to take responsibility for a species. In 2014, the European sturgeon was declared Fish of the Year. The juvenile fish - some of them are tagged - do not hang around for long in the stretch of river they are released in. Their destination is the sea: A long journey into an uncertain future, with countless risks. Germany's Federal Environment Ministry and Federal Agency for Nature Conservation have funded this unique, multifaceted project since 1996. (Dr. Henning von Nordheim, Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, Marine and Coastal Nature Conservation Unit:) There is also another reason why the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation is so strongly committed to restoring sturgeon populations in the northern and eastern half of Germany: The sturgeon is a migratory fish species - a highly charismatic migratory fish species, and one that needs continuity in a river system so that the adult fish can migrate up-river and lay their eggs in the upper reaches where they have their spawning habitats. The juveniles of the species migrate back down-river along with the parent fish after spawning, only to return from the sea many years later. This cycle, this constant alternation between saltwater and freshwater habitats - this migration between two worlds - is so characteristic of the species, and at the same time representative of numerous other species, that the sturgeon is for us the ideal ambassador of ecological continuity in river systems. The sturgeon: our Fish of the Year 2014. Restoring and conserving intact river courses and diverse marine habitats for the sturgeon is a task for the future - ensuring that the reintroduced sturgeon can return from the sea to spawn in the upper reaches of rivers and their tributaries in twelve to fifteen years' time, and ensuring that their offspring will find good conditions in witch to live.