Dam Removal in Europe

Our goal is to open up as many rivers in Europe as we can! Thousands of old dams are blocking European rivers and damaging the homes of important animals like sturgeon, salmon, trout, otter, and stork. These dams are out of use but still prevent rivers from flowing. With your help, we can make a difference by removing old and obsolete dams and even release sturgeons! Together with 967 damremovers from 10 countries we  crowdfunded 1 dam in the UK, 12 dams in the Oekraine and 1 in Lithuania.  Congratulations damremovers united! 15.000 sturgeons will be released between 16th and 18 June thanks to you. The next dam removal will be THREE dams in Ukraïne.

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Unbelievable 100%! We are going over 100% for 15.000 sturgeons, the remainder will go to the next dam removal. We just got Borislava's update: The little fish are now 72 days old and about 10 cm  long. In a couple of days 2 staff members of WWF Bulgaria will start tagging them with coded wired tags, very small pieces of metal with a code, that is only readable with special devices. These tags are implanted in the fish and are not visible, thus they do not affect  them. But they will allow to identify the fish when they are caught again through a monitoring action. Tagging 15000 small, spiny, slipy, very active fishes with less than a millimeter big tag, exactly behind the first pectoral fin requires a lot of concentration and time from our colleagues. But they sure will have finished their task for the time of the release which is now planned between 16 and 18th June. Due to Covid restrictions it can not be planned as a big public event, but  at least representatives from the most important authorities will be invited. The release event is also a great opportunity to show the fish in reality to stakeholders and increase their commitments to engage in conservation measures, crucial for the long-term protection of sturgeon.   WWFs field experts will start following the young ones downstream and will wait for them in our monitoring station at Vetren about 200 km downstream.  Last year we learned that the little fish take very different traveling speeds, some simply drift down with the current of the mighty Danube and will reach the Delta as soon as 10 days after the release. Others will choose to take it slowly and will reach the Delta in 2-3 months.  In early autumn they will enter the Black Sea and look for overwintering sites, such as one identified close to the Ukrainian Black Sea cost.  Unfortunately we know still very little about this time of their life-cycle, but Belugas will spend the next 10-15 years in the Black Sea and than will eventually return to the Danube River to lay their eggs for the first time. So this is only the start of a hopefully very long story. >>>> Worldwide Sturgeons are the most endangered group of species, according to the IUCN who regularly publishes the global red list assessments. So it is clear that sturgeon need our help! Although once widespread in many rivers in Europe such as the Rhine or the River Po, the only river where sturgeon still spawn (reproduce) naturally today is the Lower Danube River, where sturgeons can still migrate freely between the Black Sea and more than 800km upstream crossing borders of Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia.  But also here sturgeon stocks have been depleted due to massive overfishing in the past and their survival is at threat. Today sturgeon fishing is banned and WWF is engaged along the Danube to work with authorities to enforce these bans. Now we got a unique chance to support sturgeon in the Danube, and you can help. We are offered the unique opportunity to buy and release at least 15.000 Beluga sturgeon in Bulgaria, close to an island in the Danube, located almost in the middle between the Bulgarian capital Sofia, and the Romanian capital Bucharest. The little sturgeon (10-15cm in size) will be a couple of weeks old when they are leased, and they will start their journey downstream towards the Black Sea, where they will spend a couple of years until they grow large (around 1-2m) and old enough to come back to breed again. The release of these endangered fish, can directly contribute to their survival but it is also an important event to raise awareness and engage stakeholders from politicians to local fishermen, from fisheries agencies to police, from Water and Environmental Authorities. All of them are needed to engage in sturgeon conservation. A joint activity of actually releasing little sturgeon with their own hands is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for everybody. All the fish will be tagged with CWT (coded wire tags), allowing identification of these fish if they are recaptured later by other institutions or in different countries.. Additionally the tagging of released sturgeon will eventually contribute to further information of migration patterns of these fish and informs further conservation actions such as protection of habitats and migration corridors.  
Release Beluga sturgeons in the Danube

Beluga sturgeon are swimming down the Danube!

29-06-2020 | 11:14 Fantastic news! Thanks to your support, thousands of young, healthy Beluga sturgeon are swimming down the Danube towards the delta. The release went very smoothly with all the sturgeon being safely transported from the hatchery and transferred into the river. Watch the great video to see over 7000 sturgeon being released into the river - something that was only possible because of the support of so many people in the Netherlands, Austria and across Europe. Initially, we had hoped to release more sturgeons but - as with so many things - the Covid-19 crisis impacted these plans. The hatchery usually separates Beluga sturgeon on an ongoing basis as they are aggressive predators and do eat smaller sturgeon when they get to a certain size. But due to Covid-19 restrictions, the hatchery was understaffed and was not able to separate the sturgeon as they usually do - so the final number was less than anyone expected. We apologise for not updating you before but we had no idea that the impact of Covid-19 restrictions & the hatchery's inability to follow normal procedures would be so severe. But there is a real silver lining to this - the surviving sturgeon are also much larger, fitter and stronger than anyone expected and they will have a much greater chance of avoiding predators and surviving to breed now they are back into the wild. And the survival of every fish is vital as Beluga sturgeon are critically endangered. As our colleague, WWF-Bulgaria’s Stoyan Mihov said as he stood in the Danube after the successful release: “Watching thousands of strong young sturgeon swimming off into the Danube was an extraordinary experience. These fish will now head for the Black Sea, where they will grow into some of the biggest freshwater fish on Earth – and help replenish one of the last naturally-reproducing populations of Beluga sturgeon in the world.”  And another colleague, Iain Jackson, WWF Bulgaria's Conservation Director, echoed what we all feel: “The incredible response to our crowdfunding campaign and the interest of Danube communities in the release shows how concerned people across Europe are about the survival of sturgeon. Releasing thousands of young sturgeon is a huge boost to the survival of this iconic species." Thank you so much for your support. If you have any questions, please ask info@wwf.nl In the meantime, enjoy the video of your sturgeon starting their life in the Danube! Posted on: Release Beluga sturgeons in the Danube
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