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Court victory for European anglers in hydropower battle

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A Swedish court’s ruling has been described as a ‘game changer’.

Europe has won another significant victory in its fight against damaging hydropower plants on its waterways.

A Swedish court’s ruling to overturn a decision permitting a hydropower company to refurbish its plant near Brevensån without securing fish passage and adequate water flow has been described as a ‘game changer’.

The judgment established that species other than traditional migratory fish like salmon and trout are in need of passage and could create a precedent for use by other European fishing organisations.

The hydropower company had argued that the measures would be ‘costly and unnecessary’ because no migrating fish were present.

However, Sportfiskarna, the Swedish member of the European Anglers Association (EAA), appealed the decision on the basis that it was counter to the EU Water Framework Directive’s provision regarding ‘good ecological status’. It reasoned that species, such as pike, perch and roach, need migrating space.

The court agreed on both counts and also ruled that the hydropower company should regulate the water flow differently to reflect the river’s natural flow. The work will create fish passages between Brevensån and Lake Sottern which should be ready within three years at the latest.

“This ruling is very important for angling in Sweden, and perhaps for Europe as well,” said a Sportfiskarna spokesman. “Angling bodies across Europe should take notice and make use of it in their campaigning.

“For years we have promoted the fact that not only traditional migrators like salmon, trout and eels need space to fulfill their life cycles and sustain healthy stocks. Other freshwater fish species also need moving space.”

The EAA has for years promoted the correct interpretation and implementation of the Water Framework Directive, which came into force in December, 2000. The case that fish should be recognised as an important part of a river’s ecological status has long been an uphill battle, but the Association’s lobbying efforts have been met with more success in the recent past.

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